Anselm Berrigan and Stacy Szymaszek Poems




Translations: Anselm Berrigan  and Stacy Szymaszek


We asked two poets to exchange work and create interpretations of each other's poems. Click on the links below to read the original texts and new interpretations, and then come back to get the poets’ commentary on the process.




Poems by Stacy Szymaszek; reinterpreted by Anselm Berrigan


Anselm Berrigan Commentary


Stacy gave me five or so one-page poems to work with, and as I was in an emotionally agitated state I realized quickly upon making the plunge to actually do the translation - without giving it much thought beforehand in any planned sense (though anticipating the endeavor with solid excitement) - that I was going to write off of each line in each poem and each word in each line but not so much off of what I though the poems were trying to broadly communicate. However, that kind of thinking does not, by my way of looking at it, preclude working off of the experience of reading and engaging each poem. I was not looking to write about the source of my agitation either, so that provided some symmetry in the sense of Stacy's work having both my own inability to be composed and my lack of desire to make said inability be a subject between itself and my translation. Since I wrote all the initial lines all over the pages Stacy gave me, there is this intimate document somewhere, but that is not the actual translation. That's more of, like, the literal translation vis-a-vis Stacy's english into my english, and is therefore a disaster of accuracy.






Have a Good One by Anselm Berrigan; reinterpreted by Stacy Szymaszek


Stacy Szymaszek Commentary


Anselm was the first poet that came to mind to be my partner in this project. I first heard him read a few years ago in Milwaukee and was struck by the dense emotional gnarl of his work along side his quotidian ease. As colleagues, we collaborate all the time so I thought it would be nice to take that into a poem. Anselm gave me a sheaf of “Have A Good One” poems, and I choose to work with one whose beginning line hooked me: “Birdy shoots out from treetop.” I did a close line-by-line reading and just started “scoring” the movements of my mind in response to his language/images in characteristically, for me, short lines. I was really into the birdy and the boy, so I kind of exaggerated that relationship throughout.  After I read what I wrote, I also saw a representation of individual drama amidst a thronging city, but kind of in a surreal pastoral mode. I wrote it in a solid column and then added stanza breaks as an afterthought; a very subtle gesture to the form of Anselm’s poem “Zero Star Hotel.” I think of this as an exercise in distortion. I enjoyed sticking pretty close to his poem, but heating and bending it into something that fits me, the poet.










Anselm Berrigan wrote Some Notes on My Programming, published by Edge Books in spring of 2006, as well as Zero Star Hotel and Integrity & Dramatic Life. He's interested in the poems as an experience for whoever might read them, but doesn't listen to what they say they want, though he likes them. Anselm is attempting to write 200 poems called “Have A Good One.” Or so.


Stacy Szymaszek is the author of Emptied of All Ships (Litmus Press, 2005) as well as several chapbooks. Sections from her long poem “hyperglossia” are forthcoming from Hot Whiskey Press. She works at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church and curates their Monday Readings series. Editor of Gam: A Survey of Great Lakes Writing, she is trying to revive and reconfigure it as a New Yorker.




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