Posted by: Joelle Jameson | November 15, 2010

Poetry in translation: Zephyr Press and J. Kates

“Your friend can read this poem, this book that you love. It is no longer a closed code. He can get to know it, and you are the one who has broken the seals. It is you who introduce him on his visit to this palace, who accompany him on all the byways and into the most charming corners of this foreign city which, without you, he would probably never get to see. You have picked up his admission-ticket; you have paid his fare. What pleasure is equal to that of sharing your own happiness with those you love?”

—Valéry Larbaud (tr. J. Kates)

V. Larbaud and J. Kates

A few weeks ago I went to the ever-excellent Boston Book festival and met the good people of Zephyr Press at their booth. Zephyr Press is a non-profit press that focuses on contemporary works in translation from Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia. A few days ago I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Jim Kates, editorial co-director of Zephyr Press.

Jim   is a poet and literary translator, as well as a former president of the American Literary Translators Association. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry in 1984 and a Translation Project Fellowship in 2006. Besides three poetry chapbooks of his own, he is the translator of seven volumes of poetry by Russian and French poets, and he is also the translation editor of Contemporary Russian Poetry, and the editor of In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era.

For more information about the poets on today’s show, visit, and become a facebook fan.

This show will be archived on Sunday, November 21.


“Embers in the Forest” by Liliana Ursu (tr. Sean Cotter)

“Roasted Goose” by Shang Qin (tr. Steve Bradbury)

“In a Broken Mirror” by Anna Akhmatova (tr. Judith Hemschemeyer)

“Thallus” by Tatiana Shcherbina (tr. J. Kates)

“Not in the chimney, but in the gas pipes . . .” by Mikhail Aizenberg (tr. J. Kates)

“Psalm 137” by Genrikh Sapgir (tr. J. Kates)

“It’s better not to live in Moscow . . .” by Dimitry Aleksandrovich Prigov (tr. Robert Reid)

“Winter Elegy” by Marzanna Kielar (tr. Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese)


“American English” by Idlewild

“Language” by Scott Matthews

“Un Jour Comme Un Autre” by Brigitte Bardot

“A New Name for Everything” by The Weakerthans

“Let’s Get Out of This Country” by Camera Obscura

Transition Songs

“Positively Inclined” by Wax Tailor

“Far Far” by Yael Naim

“Fibre De Verre” by Paris Combo

“My Maudlin Career” by Camera Obscura

“Night Windows” by The Weakerthans


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