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These poems are versions of versions of versions of translations done by Burton Watson and David M. Gordon. I love how Lu Yu gets translated by Watson in this straightforward pretty way and by Gordon in this strange and stilted way, and reading the two of them together makes me want to rewrite them in a flagrantly self-gratifying way that probably has very little to do with the actual poems of Lu Yu. So they're not really mine but they're not really his but they're not translations either. I don't know. The brilliant poet and translator Michael O'Brien (who has a gorgeous version of an oft-translated Lu Yu poem in his book Sleeping and Waking) is also an influence.

Robert Lowell, whose Imitations might be a kind of forefather to this work, said he created his versions of great foreign poems during dry spells in his regular writing process. What relationship has this project had to your writing poems that are less complicatedly your own?

Lowell's relationship, exactly. I mess with Lu Yu's poems (and no one else's, for some reason; it's something to do with how he in particular gets translated) when I don't have any traction in poems that are, as you nicely put, less complicatedly my own. It's the pleasure of procedural work, I guess, except I have no real procedure. But the principle's (roughly) the same.