Paula Cisewski and Sarah Fox Poems




Translations: Sarah Fox and Paula Cisewski


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.




Beginning the Fast by Paula Cisewski; reinterpreted by Sarah Fox



Sarah Fox Commentary


For my first "draft" of this translation, I decided not to use any words other than the ones that appeared in Paula's poem. I was interested in Beginning the Fast, because I had embarked on my own literal fast this summer-- five days of not eating! I was especially drawn to the scatological aspect of Paula's poem and wanted to bring that into some focus. Not to mention that Paula and I share a rare chemistry when it comes to "stealing" from each other, and, as always, I found so much to work with; it was like fishing around in Paula's wardrobe and trying on some of her lovely dresses!


I finished this first draft, sent it to the editors here at Konundrum Engine, and thought it was over. Shortly thereafter, I felt that I might be onto something more with the poem, and I decided that if I wanted to keep going I needed to do some work on wresting Paula's voice out of "my" poem. It felt too much like plagiarism. I revisited a poem I was working on earlier this summer that I had set aside called Dear Omnivore--I couldn't ever get it right and so had abandoned it. I decided to try to combine forces, weaving the translation in with my Dear Omnivore. In the meantime, the document containing my original translation was lost in transit to the editors, and I had failed to keep a copy myself. Somehow, it seems right--obviously that first translation was just practice. So I guess my Dear Omnivore--the original of which I confess was largely a cut-up of an article in the New York Times--is actually a translation of a translation of a translation . . . I think. Little did I know Paula's Beginning the Fast would send me down such a rabbit hole, and for that I thank her.






Home Birth by Sarah Fox; reinterpreted by Paula Cisewski



Paula Cisewski Commentary


When I completed the first erasure for “Home Birth,” I felt as if I had uncovered a secret poem -- some sparse, eastern form inside Sarah’s beautiful poem. But then it didn’t seem to do enough justice to the original. Though I was happy with the new piece, there was no reason -- beyond intuition, which I do trust -- that led me to choose the words I did.  So, letting days or weeks pass in between, I went back to listen to the poem again and again, and it seemed there were myriad possibilities within this one work. I began to view Sarah’s poem as a choir and I was charting some few individual strands of solo voices within it. At first I didn’t touch the layout or punctuation, but later I did, thinking that it was more honest (as in: a less honest erasure became a more honest translation). And by the end I felt comfortable beginning from any angle, as if this is a cubist version of Sarah’s original work. 










Sarah Fox is the publisher of Fuori Editions and teaches poetry and creative writing in schools and literary centers throughout Minnesota. She has received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bush Foundation. Poems from Because Why have appeared in Bloomsbury Review, Jacket, jubilat, Verse, and other journals.


Paula Cisewski is the author of Upon Arrival (Black

Ocean 2006) and the chapbook How Birds Work (Fuori

Editions 2002). Her poems have appeared or are

forthcoming in Conduit, Spinning Jenny, Forklift, OH,

Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Swerve, Pilot, and

Swink, among other magazines. She lives a bicycle ride

away from Sarah Fox in Minneapolis. Paula teaches

writing and liberal arts classes and hosts the

Imaginary Press Reading Series.




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