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Transom:
How did you come to translate Šalamun’s work?

Merrill:
I met Tomaž in Ljubljana in the summer of 1992, and during a long lunch we decided that one day we would work together on his poems. Thus began a long and fruitful association, where we met in various places to work on his poems, using literal translations into English and French as the starting points for what we would make together, with the help of several dictionaries and a lot of laughter.

Transom:
What relationships do you see between Šalamun’s work and your own?

Merrill:
Certainly Tomaž encouraged me to write with greater freedom. But more to the point: his single-minded devotion to poetry, the way that he seems to sniff in the very air that he breathes the beginning of a new line, convinced me that the Muse demands from her servants everything that we have to give. His work, his presence, his vision: water from a mountain spring. I drink deep.

Transom:
Many of your new poems take the reader on a journey through a series of unsettling landscapes. Indeed, we seem to enter each poem precisely at the moment when the ordinary suddenly becomes bizarre. Take these lines from "Newly Minted": "She wanted to get out of the car. But when she told him to pull over to the side of the road he gunned the engine..." What possibilities does physical disorientation offer your poetry?

Merrill:
I have traveled relentlessly for more than twenty years, first as a journalist and now in my position as the director of the International Writing program, and no doubt my memory and imagination have been shaped by the strangeness of some of my journeys--which, I suppose, is a metaphor for what I take to be the mystery of human existence: a mystery that no one embodies more fully in their poems than Tomaž Šalamun.

Sample Translations:
from The Book for My Brother (via Poetry Daily)
Merrill's introduction to Šalamun's The Four Questions of Melancholy