Best-selling Poets? Apparently, Only in Russia…

First of all, kudos to Vogue for writing about poetry in translation. It gives me hope to know that a major fashion magazine will, occasionally, deign to engage with literature.

Ok, that said, could they have actually gotten someone who knew a little more about poetry (or translation, for that matter) to write the 198 words on the book? With not much space devoted to it, I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but to open with the utterly absurd statement that “Only in Russia, it seems, do poets become best-selling authors, their words memorized and spoken aloud like rock anthems” is just too much for me to bear. Pablo Neruda’s books are still best-selling around the world, and his poetry recited by children, illiterate workers and government officials alike. He filled sports stadiums when reading. Mahmoud Darwish’s work is recited as more than rock anthems, like prayers and mantras, all over the Arabic-speaking world. In fact, almost every other language has a literary tradition rife with best-selling contemporary poets whose works are memorized and recited, and who pack their readings. The plain ignorance of world poetry is (though perhaps it shouldn’t be) astounding here.

Anyways, I’m glad that poetry in translation is getting some mainstream attention.

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