New Books from the Program in Creative Writing and Translation
Need a good summer read? Look no further than the U of A Program in Creative Writing and Translation. Spring brought a bundle of new books, with three faculty members, and even a student, offering new volumes of poetry, memoir, and translation.
BARDO OR NOT BARDO
(Open Letter Books) by Antoine Volodine, translated by J.T. Mahany
Second-year student J.T. Mahany translated this work of fiction by French author Antoine Volodine into English for the first time. In this absurd and comical book, the recently deceased find themselves in the Bardo, or Tibetan afterlife, charged to wander 49 days until their rebirth. But second chances aren't enough to save many of these characters, who, after barging through life now bungle their afterlives.
Bardo or Not Bardo is Mahany's second foray into publication. Last spring, Open Letter Books published his translation of the Volodine novel Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven. In both books, Volodine's unconventional writing style posed a host of challenges for Mahany as a translator. "Volodine attempts to write French as if it's a foreign language," he said, "So I had to make the English feel foreign as well," while staying faithful to the style and tone of the original text.
Mahany, who won the creative writing program's 2016 Miller Williams Prize for translation, is now at work on another book, Eleven Sooty Dreams, which Volodine published under the pseudonym Manuela Draeger.
(University of Utah Press) by Davis McCombs
This third collection from Davis McCombs, director of the Program in Creative Writing and Translation and associate professor of poetry, won the 2015 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize from the University of Utah Press.
While McCombs' previous collections, Ultima Thule and Dismal Rock, are rooted in the poet's native Kentucky, lore pivots to face the landscape and legends of his adopted home in the Ozark Mountains. This is a place where the reader finds a "stonebound lonesome note of packed / dirt roads and scorched rock twisted to some ancient / and unreachable ache." It is a landscape literally and figuratively haunted. Ghosts gather—human, animal, and some of different substance altogether, as when the frost reaches a "hand not made of hand" to test the gate latch in the opening poem, "First Hard Freeze."
Acclaimed poet Linda Bierds, who judged the Ali prize, writes: "The rewards of this collection are many, but for me its unwavering precision is the hallmark of McCombs's achievement, descriptive, figurative, tonal, emotional: all of poetry's rooms are lit by his lyric accuracy."
THINGS LIKE THE TRUTH: OUT OF MY LATER YEARS
(University Press of Mississippi) by Ellen Gilchrist
Those familiar with the irresistible undertow of professor Ellen Gilchrist's prose will feel the familiar tug of her voice again in Things Like the Truth. This collection of personal essays is published by the University Press of Mississippi, which also produced her popular memoir, The Writing Life.
While that previous volume focused on the business of writing and teaching, Things Like the Truth turns to the personal—from Gilchrist's childhood, to her years as a young wife, and finally to the joys of being a grandmother and great-grandmother to her "countless progeny." Her delight in finding Fayetteville and her days here—first as a reckless new writer, now as a thriving, nurturing artist—receives special attention.
The volume represents Gilchrist's twenty-sixth book. NPR has called her work "addictive," and for readers who agree, Things Like the Truth offers yet another chance to indulge.
THE NIGHT-WATCHMAN'S DAUGHTER
(Salmon) by Michael Heffernan
Professor of poetry Michael Heffernan features in two new volumes from the Irish publishing house Salmon Poetry. His latest collection, The Night-Watchman's Daughter, is soon to be released. In the meantime, his work appears in the newly published Even the Daybreak—35 Years of Salmon Poetry, an anthology that takes its title from one of Heffernan's poems.
The Night-Watchman's Daughter explores the hazy territory of daybreak, the pre-dawn dreams of an accomplished poet. After more than a dozen collections, Heffernan continues to explore new characters and scenes—a hot dog joint in Michigan, the rain-lashed road to Brindisi, Walt Whitman's stoop. The speakers in these poems range from funny to bitter, saying their own piece but girded by the poet's unique sensibility: irreverent and sensuous, undercutting each moment of dreaminess with luscious details of taste and smell.
Says renowned poet Billy Collins: "To write poems that combine reason and feeling so well must require a smart heart and a mind capable of love. Michael Heffernan has what it takes to lead us, line by line, to a place where emotion and thought remarkably occupy the same ground."
About the Program in Creative Writing and Translation: Founded in 1966, the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences consistently ranks in the top 40 M.F.A. programs nationwide, according to Poets & Writers magazine. The Atlantic Monthly named the U of A among the "Top Five Most Innovative" M.F.A. programs in the nation. Noteworthy graduates include Barry Hannah, C.D. Wright, Lucinda Roy, and Nic Pizzolatto.