The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute Launches Its Poets in the World Series

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Poems from around the globe start a literary conversation across borders

March 5, 2014

CHICAGO – The eight new titles in the Poets in the World series offer English-speaking audiences a rare glimpse at the work
 of contemporary poets who have shaped literary traditions from around the globe, from Africa to Europe, Iraq to China, and beyond. A project of the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute the Poets in the World series collaborates with a range of American publishers to produce eight new titles that advance readership for world poetry:

  • Another English: Anglophone Poems from Around the World, editors Catherine Barnett and Tiphanie Yanique (Tupelo Press)
  • Elsewhere, editor Eliot Weinberger (Open Letter Books)
  • Fifteen Iraqi Poets, editor Dunya Mikhail (New Directions)
  • New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, editor Ming Di (Tupelo Press)
  • Pinholes in the Night: Essential Poems from Latin America, editors Raul Zúrita and Forrest Gander (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Seven New Generation African Poets, editors Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani (Slapering Hol Press)
  • Something Indecent: Poems Recommended by Eastern European Poets, editor Valzhyna Mort (Red Hen Press)
  • The Star by My Head: Poets from Sweden, editors Malena Mörling and Jonas Ellerström (Milkweed Editions)

 The Poets in the World series was conceived when Ilya Kaminsky, poet, editor, translator and 2010–13 director of the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, decided to use his directorship to start a literary conversation across borders.

 “Among the poets invited to edit books in Poets in the World series are former political prisoners, refugees and writers who know from personal experience about the power of language and the consequences that poets may pay for sharing their work in their home countries,” says series editor Ilya Kaminsky. “We hope that these compelling stories not only bring unique perspectives to American poetry, but alert our readers to how much is at stake for a poet in other parts of the world.”

Kaminsky—an international poet himself, born in the city of Odessa in the former Soviet Union—invited poets and editors from various locales, generations and aesthetics to recommend poetry addressing significant and striking aspects of their languages and traditions. Some of the recommended poems, written by authors like Margaret Atwood, Kofi Awoonor, Bertolt Brecht, Fernando Pessoa, Tomas Tranströmer and César Vallejo already have an enormous following in the United States, but readers know very little about the literary traditions surrounding their work. The Poets in the World series illuminates these traditions by including the works of poets who, while little known or completely unknown outside their own countries, have greatly affected, and are the inspirational underpinning for, today’s great world poets.

Today only about 3 percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation. (The 3 percent figure includes all books in translation; when pared down to works of poetry and literary fiction, the number is actually closer to 0.7 percent.) Kaminsky is an expert on issues of translation and is available to speak about the dearth of books in translation in the United States today and the Poets in the World series as a whole.

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About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit poetryfoundation.org.

About the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute
The Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute is an independent forum created to provide a space in which fresh thinking about poetry, in both its intellectual and its practical needs, can flourish free of any allegiance other than to the best ideas. With this in mind, the Institute convenes leading poets, scholars, publishers, educators and other thinkers from inside and outside the poetry world to address issues of importance to the art form of poetry and to identify and champion solutions for the benefit of the art.

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