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Alexander Deriev (ed.), Ars-Interpres. An Internation Annual Journal of Poetry, Translation & Art, No.1

Ars-Interpres Annual,  2003. ISBN: 9179105491

Reviewed by Ardis Grosjean Dreisbach in SBR 2004:2


Published in association with Pilgrim's Star (Märsta). Includes 14 b/w illustrations.


Based in Stockholm, this new book-length journal has unusually wide horizons. Ars-Interpres, which is sche-duled to appear in English annually, has as its aim to make poetry, criticism and the arts accessible outside their own cultures.
It is pleasing to note that Swedish poets and critics are well able to hold their own in the literary landscape of this journal, where they appear next to major figures from English, Russian and Italian letters – to name three of the main languages covered in the first issue. Swedish artists are represented in each of the three sections of journal. In At the Point of Crossing, comprising some seventy pages of contemporary poetry, there are two poems by Jesper Svenbro (both translated into English by Lars-Håkan Svensson and John Matthias) and Industry of Night by Swedish poet Arios Fioretos (written in English and dedicated to the artist Jan Håfström).
The section In Commemoration of Monuments presents not only English versions of twentieth-century Russian and Italian poets, but a very personal tribute to that monument of Russian poetry, Joseph Brodsky, by one of Sweden’s most eminent authorities on Russian literature – Professor Bengt Jangfeldt. Brodsky spent some weeks in Sweden almost every summer from 1988 to 1994, and Jangfeldt gives us a privileged look at some of the idio-syncracies of the Russian poet, even informing us that Brodsky’s favourite Swedish schnapps was Bäska droppar.
The journal’s third section, A Unit of Measurement, contains, among other things, observations on the art and challenges of translating poetry. Andrey Gritsman’s Poetic Translation and Bilingual Poetry: Translating Mandelstam should be required reading for anyone about to attempt translating Russian poetry into a Western language. Related insights are provided by Daniel Weissbort in Brodsky and Translation. Aris Fioretos compares good writing to a deadly virus. Also in this section are Lars-Håkan Svensson’s comments on the two poems by Jesper Svenbro, which he also translated (both appear in the first section of the journal).
Ars-Interpres hence promises a rich spectrum of poetry, translations, reviews and the visual arts. Marie Lundquist appears, as does Denmark’s Pia Tafdrup. Here, too, admirers of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney can savour a unique interview with him. Some have announced the death of the Swedish literary magazine, or at least its terminal ill health. Ars-Interpres 2004 will attempt to defy such pessimism, and to continue taking a broad view of poetry from the vantage point of Stockholm.

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