Recently Polly Duff Bresnick (translater of The Odyssey) sat down to interview Paul Legault (translator of Emily Dickinson’s poems), but something weird happened. Here’s that:
HOMER: Emily, you’re such a modern woman.
EMILY: I’m surprised you noticed. I thought you were blind.
HOMER: I got a braille edition of your book.
POLLY: I gave it to him. Do you know the translator?
PAUL: Did it include the correct punctuation? It was probably the Franklin edition.
HOMER: I don’t use punctuation. I sing. I hear a young man. Have we met, young man? Do you sing?
PAUL: Any requests?
POLLY: Aaron Copland, Simon Holt, Judith Weir. Cover their covers.
HOMER: Let the young man sing that Justin Timberlake song. The one about writing a symphony. I like that one.
EMILY: I like music so much I want to punch through a window.
PAUL: How ’bout I put on some Dickinson. Josephine Foster did a good cover of “They Called Me to the Window.”
POLLY: Emily, that’s my window. I’ll let it slide this time. But only because it seems to be helping.
HOMER: Please be careful. The pane’s shards are splitting my lark heart.
EMILY suddenly gets up. She takes one of the glass shards and murders PAUL.
PAUL: (with his last breath) I … I still love you.
EMILY: I know. (pause) Who’s next?
HOMER: Is that blood I smell? Or is it music, endlessly spooling out like the tides of the wine dark—
POLLY, trembling, grabs HOMER.
POLLY: Let’s get out of here!
PAUL: (pause) Wait, I’m not dead.
EMILY: Nobody is.
PAUL: Polly, I’d really love to interview you about the process of translation sometime. Maybe when our muses aren’t around.
EMILY: I know when I’m not wanted.
EMILY exits stage left.
POLLY: Paul! That’s a great idea! Let’s interview each other! (in a whisper) But Homer’s staying with me this weekend, so he has nowhere else to go…
HOMER: Now I feel awkward!
POLLY: Let’s do the interview in American Sign Language!
POLLY signs the first interview question.
Polly Duff Bresnick is the author of the chapbooks Old Gus Eats (Publishing Genius, July 2012) and MIRROR POEMS (O’Clock Press, December 2012). Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in TRNSFR, The Brooklyn Rail, elimae, Dossier, and The Fiddleback. She is the founder, curator, and host of the monthly reading series Writers Reading to Writers Listening to Writers Reading to Writers.
Paul Legault is the co-founder of the translation press Telephone Books; the author of three books of poetry: The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010), The Other Poems (Fence, 2011), The Emily Dickinson Reader (McSweeney’s, 2012); and co-editor of The Sonnets: Translating & Rewriting Shakespeare(Nighboat/Telephone, 2012). He’s here: www.theotherpaul.com.