Paul Legault is the co-founder of the translation press Telephone Books and the author of three books of poetry: The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010), The Other Poems (Fence, 2011), and The Emily Dickinson Reader, an “English-to-English translation” of her poems that McSweeney’s released last month—and which all summer has been passed around our office by giggling editors, like how teenagers used to share pornography. (Full disclosure: Legault dates a member of our staff.) The book launch is tomorrow evening at powerHouse.
You live in Brooklyn, right?
I live in Crown Heights, moved to Brooklyn three years ago after grad school, started working at the Academy of American Poets when I got here, launched a small Brooklyn press focused on radical translation called Telephone Books. And I like it here.
Why Emily Dickinson?
For any American poet, Emily Dickinson is sort of a monolith. There’s no way around/over/under—you have to go through it. To me, translating Dickinson seemed as inevitable as a contemporary musician covering Bob Dylan. Because her ideas are distinctly modern. And though the hymnal form’s a little dated, Dickinson understood how time works, i.e. #326:
Heaven is so 1861.
Or, as she writes in #379:
I wish I were simpler. I also wish I were more edible.
Die beiden hier “zitierten” Gedichte von Emily Dickinson: