Thursday, November 22, 2007

Idra Novey

Idra Novey’s poems appear in the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Slate, and Barrow Street. Her chapbook of poems The Next Country won the 2005 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship and her translations of Brazilian poet Paulo Henriques Britto received a PEN Translation Fund grant. Her first book of poems received the Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James and will be published in fall 2008. She teaches writing at Columbia University.

I recently asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Beside my bed, I like to keep a mix of new books and a few favorites in case I’m in the mood to be nourished by something already familiar. Recently, I’ve been rereading Near to the Wild Heart, a first novel by the brilliant Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. I’ve read all of Lispector’s novels more than once, and The Passion According to G.H. probably four times. With a Lispector novel, I find I can open to almost any page and come across a question or insight that brings a new sharpness to my thinking about whatever I’ve been mulling over during the day.

I’ve also been rereading Elizabeth Macklin’s first book of poems, A Woman Kneeling in the Big City. When I read one of Macklin’s poems at night, some of the lines will replay themselves the next day while I’m out in the New York she writes about. It’s wonderful to have her lyrical descriptions ringing in my head as I move on and off the subway.

As for books I’ve been reading for the first time, I would recommend the under-recognized, absolutely amazing poems of Vasko Popa. Charles Simic’s translations of Popa in Homage to the Lame Wolf are incredible, especially in the series “The Little Box.” Popa fits the whole mystifying world into The Little Box. The series is full of gorgeous surprises. In “The Craftsmen of the Little Box,” Popa writes:

Don’t open the little box

Heaven’s hat will fall out of her

Don’t close her for any reason

She’ll bite the trouser-leg of eternity

Who knew that eternity wore trousers or that heaven needed a hat? And doesn’t the world seem a little more promising when even eternity and heaven have to get dressed?
Novey's poems available online include "Aubade," "Maddox Road," and "Definition of Stranger."

--Marshal Zeringue