2013 Plutzik Series – Featuring Three Incredible Poets

The Plutzik Memorial Reading Series is one of the most prestigious and longest-running reading series in the country. Over the years, the Series has featured a vast array of poets and fiction writers, the famous and not-yet famous. Originally established by Hyam Plutzik himself, the Series was named for the poet after his death in 1962. Readings have been held in at Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester since the series’ inception. The 52nd annual series welcomes three great poets in Fall 2013:

Louise Gluck, Aleksander Hemon, and Sally Keith


October 12, 2013 – 3:30 PM

Louise Glück, Poet

Louis Glück is Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a former Poet Laureate of the United States, Glück is the author a dozen widely acclaimed books, most recently Poems 1962-2012.  Stephen Dobyns, writing in the New York Times Book Review, said “no American poet writes better than Louise Glück, perhaps none can leads us so deeply into our own nature.”  Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Hass has called her “one of the purest and most accomplished lyric poets now writing.”Glück is currently the Rosenkranz Writer-in-Residence at Yale University, having taught previously at Williams College for over twenty years.

     She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and was in 1999 elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In the New York Times, critic William Logan described her work as “the logical outcome of a certain strain of confessional verse—starved of adjectives, thinned to a nervous set of verbs, intense almost past bearing, her poems have been dark, damaged and difficult to avert your gaze from.”


October 29, 2013 – 5 PM

Aleksandar Hemon, Poet

Aleksandar Hemon is the author of The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award, and three collections of short stories: The Question of Bruno; Nowhere Man, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Love and Obstacles, which will be published by Riverhead Books on May 14, 2009.

Born in Sarajevo, Hemon visited Chicago in 1992, intending to stay for a matter of months. While he was there, Sarajevo came under siege, and he was unable to return home. Hemon wrote his first story in English in 1995. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2004.  He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.


November 14, 2013 – 5 PM

Sally Keith, Poet

Sally Keith’s most recent book is The Fact of the Matter. Her previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series competition.

Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University.


For up to date information on the readings, please contact the English Department at The University of Rochester – (585) 275- 4092. To interview the poets or learn more about the series, please contact the Public Relations office at The University of Rochester – (585) 276-3256, valerie.alhart@rochester.edu


Writers in Residence Reflect

Hyam Plutzik’s desk has found a permanent home in The Writer’s Room at The Betsy South Beach where it is utilized by writers in residence. Two recent visiting writers, Thomas Kennedy and Teo Castellanos, shared thoughts about their experience writing at his desk.


Award-winning international writer, Thomas Kennedy, was recently a writer in residence in South Florida where he had the chance to read Hyam Plutzik’s poetry for the first time, in the most unique of circumstances – because he was also given the chance to sit at Plutzik’s desk in a part of the world that Plutzik visited as a soldier in World War II.

Below is an excerpt from Kennedy’s reflections on his experiences – as a writer in residence in South Florida – as seen through the lens of various art forms, including HP’s poetry, at The Betsy-South Beach.

On the roof, across Ocean Drive from the Atlantic, I sit at a table, gazing out onto the dark ocean night and a dented orange moon in the velvet sky, a chill bottle of Stella Artois at my elbow, breeze off the ocean drying the sweat on my face, and leaf through Apples from Shinar. 

Before I rode the elevator four floors to this roof, I quickly googled at the hotel desk computer (also at my disposal) “Shinar,” because I hadn’t a clue: Shinar was a biblical location in Mesopotamia, perhaps from the Hebrew for two rivers or two cities: the Tigris and Euphrates, or Uruk and Babylon. 

There’s no title poem in the book to give a hint. The hint must be in the title itself. Perhaps we’re talking the birth of civilization here. Gilgamesh and Uruk. Shinar also enclosed the plain that became the Tower of Babel, so we’re also talking language and communication and the failure to communicate, too. Or maybe we’re talking Eden, the forbidden fruit? Apples is plural, however—maybe apples stand for the poems themselves, the fruit of willfulness, awareness, self-consciousness, the will of human beings, the naming of things?

Read Kennedy’s complete expose here. For more information on Award-winning writer Thomas Kennedy, visit www.thomasekennedy.com and www.CopenhagenQuartet.com


Miami-based playwright and actor, Teo Castallanos recently served as a writer in residence at The Betsy-South Beach. He is Artistic Director of D-Projects, a contemporary Dance/Theater company whose original work fuses world cultures and music to examine social issues through performance. Castellano reflects on his time in residence in the eloquent and moving letter below. 

I was once told by a Mayan astrologer in Guatemala that the elements were important to me. “Yes they are.” I agreed. At the time, I had been working with the four primary elements in performance training pedagogy that I was developing. Earth, Wind, Fire and Water keep us, and this planet alive. They are also vital to my creative process. My writing retreat at The Betsy Hotel brimmed with the elements and creative energy. Creativity was abound, from the light that poured through the window facing the desk where I wrote, to the poems hung in my room, I was surrounded by charm and inspiration. An extremely supportive staff also helped to create an environment much conducive to artistry.

Upon my early rising, usually at 5:00 am, I would climb to the roof top terrace, where nature greeted me. During my 30 minute meditation, the breeze would whisper caresses and the ocean would bellow crashes on soft shores. I began the Five Tibetan Rites as the Sun’s rays heralded his coming. The stars would scamper, making room for vast light. Sometimes Sun’s wife, Moon would hang out long enough to ask Sun where he’d been all night. Other times she’d be gone before his arrival, knowing he really never left her. She understood that her shine was due to his love. After morning communion with my creative collaborators, I would head to Starbucks where I’d pick up a double shot soy latte and return to the roof top to sip and watch the last stars flee as King Sun tinted the Sky and began to take command of the day. I was then ready to write.

And write I did. During my stay I was able to finish the first draft of my screenplay Third Trinity. The time, space and environment allowed me to stay focused and work diligently. I wrote at the desk of Hyam Plutzik, and was surrounded by his poetry. No doubt that his legacy and the honor I felt while writing there, fueled my creativity, allowing me to complete that very first draft. May it be known that, not only was the first draft of Third Trinity done at The Betsy, it was done because of The Betsy. My deepest gratitude goes to The Betsy and all who sustain her in providing such an important creative womb.

– Teo Castellanos

For more information about Teo Castellanos, visit www.teocastellanos.com.


For more information on The Writers Room at The Betsy – South Bech, visit www.betsywritersroom.comFor more information on Hyam Plutzik, visit www.hyamputzikpoetry.com.

“The Last Fisherman” Published in Best American Poetry Blog to Honor Hyam Plutzik’s 102nd Birthday

By Edward Moran

To mark what would have been Hyam Plutzik’s 102nd birthday on July 13th, poet David Lehman posted Plutzik’s “The Last Fisherman” on that day’s “Best American Poetry” blog. The poem originally appeared as the final poem in Plutzik’s acclaimed collection Apples from Shinar, published by Wesleyan University Press in 1959 and reprinted in 2011.  Its strategic placement as the envoi to this collection is a testament to the poem as a profound meditation on our endurance in the face of life’s transience.  Though a human’s life is ephemeral and short-lived, the fisher poet finds solace and significance in the elusive quest for his aquarian prey, as all “wait still for the wonder.”

Hyam Plutzik was no mere armchair abstractionist who wrote of nature from the comfortable confines of his study.  An avid angler for many years, he enjoyed rising in the pre-dawn hours to cast his line in one of the lakes or ponds around Rochester, New York, where he taught English for many years at the university. As a tribute to his devotion to fishing, the poet’s rod and reel is lovingly preserved along with his manuscripts, letters, and other artifacts in the Plutzik archives at the University of Rochester’s Rush-Rhees Library.

To Plutzik, this favorite pastime was not just “recreational”—it was profoundly “re-creational” in that it afforded him time to reflect on life and language in the solitude of his favorite fishing hole while crafting the images and tropes that teemed in his poetry like fish in a hatchery.  In “The Bass,” another poem from Apples from Shinar, Plutzik imagines them pleading, “We are the great fireflies,/Sweeter than soft minnows./Take us before we fade.”

David Lehman, the founding editor of Best American Poetry, has himself published several acclaimed collections of verse. He also edited The Oxford Book of American Poetry and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. For many years, he has taught poetry at the New School in New York City, where he serves as poetry coordinator.

Review – Plutzik Reading Series – Ellen Bryant Voigt

(If you have questions about our content, please contact me, Jessica Briggs, at jessicasbriggs@gmail.com, or contact our literary advisor, Edward J. Moran, at emoran8688@aol.com)


On March 5, 2013, poet Ellen Bryant Voigt appeared in the Plutzik Reading Series at the University of Rochester. Below, Kelsey Burritt, a UR senior, shares her reflections on the reading.

    In class two days after Ellen Bryant Voigt’s visit as part of the Plutzik Reading Series, we debated whether or not her reading was a performance. Granted, it might have been natural to describe it as a performance given the vivacity, bravura, and showmanship she brought to bear in the Welles-Brown Room on March 5. What Professor Longenbach argued, and which is entirely apparent when one reads her poetry on the page, is that her work as she writes it is a performance. That the quality is transferred effortlessly into her delivery is only a truer testament to how tightly wrought, expertly structured, and fondly finessed her poetry is. At one point, Voigt told us she was allowing little pauses between the poems, perceptively guessing that we were winded by each staggering utterance and desperately needed the white space of a few quiet moments to recuperate.

I sayrecuperate” not to suggest that her poems eviscerate, but rather to say that they exercise. I jotted down, after listening to “Noble Dog,” that processing these poems was an endurance workout for the imagination. In his introduction to Voigt, Longenbach said these poems produced the effect of  “a mind thrillingly in motion.” The collection they are a part of, Headwaters, is not due out until later this year, although a handful of these poems have made appearances in publications over the last few years. They represent a sharp turn from her earlier poetry, namely in their complete lack of punctuation. As Longenbach said, she does not stand upon her prior accomplishment. She blazes fearlessly onward, and that brazen impetus is heard in every line.

The mind does not utilize punctuation; that, of course, is a system necessitated by the written word. We may begin to shape our thoughts with punctuation, although that influence would only take shape after we have been introduced to and familiarized with grammatical structures. It’s clear in these poems that the thoughts and the words come before the ability to organize them and make them “reader-friendly.” However, even more curiously, the poems are not lost on us. They do not descend into a muddle of incogitant images strung together without order or sense. The paradox of Voigt’s writing, and an ingenious one, is that such meticulously detailed construction of thought unravels with the hurdling momentum of impulse.

There was a breathless tension in the room as she read her poems, perhaps explained in part by the rush the language created over the line, with a release of air, sometimes audible ooh’s and aah’s, sometimes laughter, at their ends. Often the poems would feature some kind of turn—like a sonnet, but obviously less expected by way of form—that the assertive muscle of the language would render purposeful, as opposed to hollowly clever or downright baffling. Poems like “Bear” and “Groundhog,” which begin with imagery corresponding to their titles, would arrive at statements like “the plural pronoun is a dangerous fiction” and “it matters / what we’re called words shape the thought.”

Perhaps the greatest moment Voigt shared with her audience was in reading her poem “My Mother.” After announcing the title, she quipped that we all have a poem like this inside of us. Then, as she began reciting it—”my mother my mother my mother she”—Voigt stopped and said that we could use that opening line for our poems too.

The poem continued with a smattering of delightful intimations about her mother’s purse, her sayings, her mannerisms, enlisting repetition of words like lipstick, spit, bushel, packed, and lacked. We may not have emerged from the poem with a holistic understanding of her mother, but we did land with a clear understanding of the mother within the speaker’s reflection, the isolated images and memories sharpened and filled out like pictures in a projector wheel.

Indeed, Voigt’s reading was punctuated by her raising her eyebrows, her sustained eye contact with her audience, the contortions her mouth made with the spirited lilt of her delivery. What her presence brought to the poetry, however, was already latent inside  it. Voigt only gave voice to the phrases that shape it, the words that “shape the thought.”

Two Exciting Hyam Plutzik Centennial Events in April!


We’re sharing two great events this month that bring the formal part of the HP Centennial to a close. It’s been an incredible two years (2011-12, 2012-13)!


Hyam Plutzik (Trinity ’32)– Connecticut and Beyond – an Exhibition and Reading

Opening April 9, 2013 through May 31, 2013

First in Connecticut at Trinity College, an incredible reading and exhibition, done by the Watkinson Library (Richard Ring) in tandem with the Rush Rhees Library Department of Rare Books (Phyllis Andrews), and our very own Edward Moran (literary advisor to the Centennial and Hyam Plutzik Scholar). Guest readers included the poet laureate of Connecticut, Dick Allen. See blog entry below borrowed from Richard Ring’s Blog – at the Watkinson.

Check out the link here to a listening station created for this event, that features Hyam Plutzik reading his own poem, as well as a reading by Poet James Longenbach (Trininty ‘1981’). You’ll also hear a musical setting of HP’s Sprig of Lilac with music by Robert Cohen: http://jvillafont.wix.com/hyamplutzikpoetry

Hyam Plutzik’s Horatio – at the Helen Mills Theater in New York City 

Featuring Nigel Maister – April 18, 2013

UR and Eastman celebrate poetry and music

In the Plutzik Centennial spirit of interdisciplinary artistic collaboration, we announce an upcoming event celebrating the combinatorial richness of poetry and music: Playing with Words: An Afternoon Exploring and Singing Poetry, Saturday, November 10, in Hatch Hall at the Eastman School of Music. This is a theme which Hyam Plutzik pursued in the 1950s through his own collaborations with Eastman musicians, the legacy of which lives in recent musical settings of his own poetry (available for listening here).

Playing with Words: An Afternoon Exploring and Singing Poetry is a two-part event, running from 1 to 4:30, collaboratively organized by the UR English Department, the Eastman Voice and Opera Department, and the Eastman Composition Department.

The first part of the afternoon will consist of performances by Eastman voice students of a great range of modern and contemporary settings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson; composers include Aaron Copland, Ned Rorem, Vincent Persichetti, Andre Previn, and Lee Hoiby. The poem themselves will be read aloud by students from Eastman and UR, and there will also be brief discussions of some of the poems and settings, with a group that includes myself, John Michael, Jon Baldo, and ESM voice teacher and pianist Alison D’Amato.

The second part will focus on entirely new song settings of poems by Jennifer Grotz and James Longenbach of the UR English Dept., created by Eastman composition students Jung Sun Kang and Jesse Lozano, and performed by Eastman singers and musicians. The performances will be followed by a conversation with the poets and composers, along with Katherine Ciesinski of the Eastman Voice Department and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon of the Eastman Composition Department.

The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception.

UR Library Exhibition Celebrates 50-year Plutzik Series

We’re excited to announce the opening of a very special exhibition at The University of Rochester tomorrow night that has been created with wide ranging participation from the University of Rochester community, led by Phillip Witte (UR 2010), is currently a graduate student in English at the University of Michigan.

For 50 years, the Plutzik Reading Series has brought major voices in contemporary writing to campus. The series was established following the death in 1962 of Hyam Plutzik, the John H. Deane Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry — to honor and carry out in a formal way Professor Plutzik’s frequent practice throughout his UR teaching career of offering readings of his own poetry, and inviting readings by other visiting writers as well.

For this exhibit, the University of Rochester has invited students and alumni who have filled the audiences of Series readings to contribute brief commentaries on the work of several dozen of the nearly 300 past Readers–including the likes of Elizabeth Bishop, Edward Albee, Adrienne Rich, Bernard Malamud, Anthony Hecht, Angela Carter, and Allen Ginsberg–as a way of continuing the conversation about literature which each event sparks. For each featured Series reader the exhibit includes a first edition or two as well as a photograph and brief bio-bibliography. A large section of the exhibit also revisits an earlier display on the Life and Work of Hyam Plutzik, who held his own readings in the Welles Brown Room in Rush Rhees Library, just down the stairs from the permanent home of The Plutzik Poetry Library and Archive which is the home of this exciting exhibit.

FIFTY YEARS OF POERY, FICTION, AND CONVERSATION is on display until January 11, 2013 in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department on the 2nd floor of Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester, Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. For Saturday viewing hours call: (585) 275-4477.

A special opening reception will be held tomorrow night at 5 PM October 12, 2012.

Hyam Plutzik, American Poet: The Making of a Remarkable Course

This spring, Sidney Shapiro, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of Rochester, taught a course on the life and poetry of Hyam Plutzik in Rochester, New York. In the essay abbreviated below, he shares some of the insights and stories that arose from the experience. Click here for the full text of Mr. Shapiro’s essay.

For ten weeks, from the first week of April through the first week of June 2012, I had the privilege of leading a course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that featured the poetry of Hyam Plutzik. This was my contribution to the Plutzik 50/100 Centennial celebration. Here is the story of that course. How class members, a number of them poets with several volumes of poetry to their credit, reacted to being made aware of the person and poetry of Hyam Plutzik. How one of the class members shared with us the Hyam Plutzik he knew as his professor and the influence that experience had in his becoming himself. How, astonishingly, our attention to just one of his poems led to its identification as a novel form invented by Hyam. How the study of his war poetry shed light on the contrast between his experiences of World War II and those of Anthony Hecht, who also became the Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric at the University of Rochester (UR). And how this writer, a former physicist, ended up leading poetry courses at OLLI and the cascade of events over more than twenty years that culminated in this unique course.

* * *

Having spent the bulk of our time on the substance of [“The King of Ai”], I found it necessary to comment on its unusual form, since no one seemed to see it until I pointed it out. The poem is formed in ten couplets with the end words of the first couplet, “eventide” and “city,” repeated in reverse order in the second couplet. The alternation of these two end words continues throughout the remaining couplets.

Now David Hill, a retired Professor of English whose specialty was the intricacy of language, decided to follow up on the form of this poem. He contacted a friend, Lewis Turco, who is noted for his poetry but especially for The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, which has seen several updates and revisions since its original publication in 1968. Turco was fascinated by the poem and asserted it was a novel form invented by Hyam Plutzik. He intends to include it in the next edition of his Book of Forms.

But the story gets even more astonishing. Just a few days later, David Hill told me that Turco had used this new-to-him form in a poem about his father, a poem he had been contemplating for a long time until the stimulus of “The King of Ai” and its novel form provided the push he needed to write it.

* * *

The last few classes were devoted to the war poems of Hyam Plutzik and of Anthony Hecht. Here were contrasted the differing experiences of war that each poet endured and the different poetic expression of these experiences. Whereas Plutzik enlisted in the Army in 1943 when he was thirty two, ultimately becoming an officer in the Air Force, Hecht was drafted before completing his undergraduate degree. He was placed in the ASTP—Army Specialized Training Program. Those selected for ASTP were assigned to one of the more than two hundred participating universities where they took courses designed to train them to serve in Army Intelligence or other specialized units. They received college credit for these courses and Hecht completed his degree with these transferred credits. But suddenly the Program was terminated and all of the two hundred thousand or so participants were assigned to infantry combat units.

A class member, Bob Nolan, spoke up when I referred to Hecht’s experience in ASTP and told us all that he too had been drafted out of college and assigned to the ASTP unit at Princeton. The credits from Princeton were enough to complete his UR degree. But he too found himself in the infantry and in combat when ASTP was terminated. Just as Hyam Plutzik and Anthony Hecht found in poetry the way to capture the effect of World War II on them, so did Bob Nolan who later shared with us some of his war poems. Hecht’s “A Friend Killed in the War,” which describes the death of a comrade in combat,

And his flesh opened like a peony,
Red at the heart, white petals furling out.

is echoed in Nolan’s “The Orchard”:

The back of the man ahead blossoms
With a quivering mass of tendrils
Ruby red against the olive drab

Here was yet another extraordinary coincidence in this course, and one that had each of us in our own particular way feeling the emotion of the combat experience from which we were personally spared.

* * *

The course was a remarkable experience for me and for the class members. For me there was the wonder, the excitement and the joy in being the transmitter of Hyam Plutzik’s poetry to such a receptive group. The impact on the class members was well put by one of the well-published poets in the class when she said how marvelous it was to become aware of and to study the work of such a truly remarkable poet. I hope the reader of these words comes to feel just how remarkable this course was, a fitting contribution to the Plutzik 50/100.

Sidney Shapiro
June 2012

Click here to read the entire essay.

Hyam Plutzik in the Paris Review Daily

The Paris Review has posted a new essay on their blog, the Daily, telling the story of American poet Hyam Plutzik and the new attention his work is receiving during this Centennial year. The piece is co-written by Edward Moran and Phillip Witte. Plutzik never had work published by the Paris Review, which, founded in 1953, had only been in existence nine years when he died. Published quarterly, it has since become one of the nation’s most respected literary journals. The Daily posts several pieces each day including a wide variety of interesting literary items.

Here is the opening of Moran and Witte’s essay, titled “A Great Stag, Broad-Antlered: Rediscovering Hyam Plutzik”:

The conclusion of Hyam Plutzik’s 1962 poem, Horatio, provide an apt commentary on Plutzik’s own unobtrusive presence in the world of American letters:

A great stag came out of the woods,
Broad-antlered, approaching slowly on the moonlit field,
And looked about him like a king and re-entered the dark.

The seismic shifts in American culture since 1960 have made footing precarious indeed for those broad-antlered poets who wrote in a hieratic and philosophic diction. Eschewing the more vernacular excursions of the Beats or the confessional poets of the 1970s, Plutzik published three full collections of poems, the last, Horatio, an eighty-nine-page dramatic poem in which Hamlet’s friend grapples with the charge to “report me and my cause aright.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Rosanna Warren and the Poetry of Translation

The poet and scholar Rosanna Warren delivered a lecture on Poetry and Translation at the University of Rochester on April 24th as part the Plutzik Centennial Series–reviewed here by Jenny Boyar.

Rosanna Warren

From the outset, Rosanna Warren admitted that her profession is one of “smoke and mirrors.” It seems like an image out of that final scene in The Wizard of Oz—the translator frantically conjuring false images from behind a curtain. Yet as a description of Warren’s talk this scene is inaccurate: her discussion brought the oft-overlooked issue of translation out into the open, and Warren—with her numerous fellowships, award-winning poetry, and lauded translations—certainly does not need to feign her success, and delivered her insights with endearing humility.

In fact, Warren’s work proves that the most successful translations are the ones that don’t announce themselves. She shared several of her translations of Latin and French authors: Catullus, Horace, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and Michael Glück. Each piece was unique, which is surely a testament to Warren’s ability to inhabit and then carry over varying voices. Some of the authors had been translated numerous times before; others, Warren brought into English for the first time. Warren said that regardless of the project her goal is to “make an illusion” that captures what she sees in the poem. And in translating poetry, it seems that seeing necessarily encompasses hearing—that a translator must hold an image before her eyes while also listening for a sort of music.

Warren prefaced almost every reading by plainly stating, “I have failed.” It was less of an apology than a calm acceptance that every translation will fail inasmuch as it will never replicate its original; something will always be lost and no translation will escape the mediation of interpretation. Translating, according to Warren, always involves “determining what will be your own particular heartbreak.” Warren described, for example, how, in Catullus’ poetry, a character’s appetite is enhanced by Latin words that phonetically “gobble each other up” in ways English renders impossible. But with every heartbreak comes some kind of restoration. In one example from Michael Gluck’s “Thirteen Poems,” the English word “rest” and its multiple meanings, unavailable in the French, only enhanced the way the poem inscribed deep remembrance into the ordinary day. All of these instances of triumph and defeat make translation difficult to theorize (Warren spoke at several moments of the divide between translation in theory and in practice) but they are also a testament to translation’s virtues.

Three times during the lecture Warren remarked that when it comes to translating poetry, there is “more than one way to skin a cat” (I counted only because I, as a loyal cat owner, shirked every time). It seems like a crude analogy, especially for a process that has brought us some of our most cherished pieces of literature. But when I wasn’t thinking protectively of my own cat, I was thinking of the (translated) Greek myth of the Nemean lion and how Heracles discovers, in his attempt to fight the lion, that he will not be able to skin the cat—in any way—without using the animal’s own claws. Although this brings even more brutality to Warren’s analogy, it speaks to the fact that translating necessarily involves taking, or trying to inhabit, the very work that is being shaped. The product will never be returned to its original form, and might always be slightly exposed (and I’m sure violence, too, is in some cases a part of the game). But in the hands of an artist like Warren, it will always be something to be valued and worth complete visibility.

Jenny Boyar is a first-year Ph.D. student in Medieval Literature at UR and a regular contributor to a fistful of words, having previously reviewed lectures by Susan Stewart and Christopher Ricks.