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

Kane:
He was a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh when I was doing my MFA there. There were a few small coincidences that brought us together in the first place, if I remember correctly. I had invented a character named Bertrand that I was writing a series of poems about at the time, and it was a name that he had used before; we both had similarly strong reactions to a Neo Rauch painting at the 2005 Carnegie International. Things like that. I call them small coincidences, but that’s not entirely fair of me. If you think about the connections that exist in his poems—how they sometimes (and amazingly) seem to be both inexplicable and absolutely necessary—what we might think of as coincidental he thinks of as demonstrating a certain imminence. He can locate a whole universe in a Neo Rauch painting, and so for us to both be as moved by it as we were suggested, I think, an aesthetic common ground that he felt might be productive within the poetic space. And we got a lot done the first semester he was there, so he came back to Pittsburgh every spring that I was there, and we finished working on There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair over the course of those three years.

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

Kane:
Kind of going off what I was talking about above, I think I inherited a fascination with anomaly from Tomaž. More specifically, I think I inherited a fascination with the way in which what seems anomalous oftentimes isn’t. I’ve always admired the fluidity and fearlessness of his imagination; his poems read like sublime declarations of faith to me a lot of the time. When I’m working on my own stuff, I think I always have his trust in the relatedness of things in the back of my mind. It’s not an invitation to not make sense but a push to make new sense of things, and I think that’s what I find most fun about writing poems. And, honestly, having fun within the poem is also a big part of what I learned from Tomaž. He’s so skilled at reminding us that playfulness and meaningfulness aren’t mutually exclusive, and that’s certainly something that I want to be able to articulate in my own poems.

Transom:
Your poem is entitled, “Three Prologues for a Play Cycle Concerning Song.” In traditional stagecraft, the prologue is a direct address from an actor to the audience. It helps transition the audience from their “real” lives to the invented world of the play. What we have in your poem, then, is a series of bridges crossing into different realities. Do you believe that the poet speaks from between worlds?

Kane:
I’ve always thought that this capacity to be two-worlded was at least part of what Williams was talking about with ‘no ideas but in things’—that there’s a certain amount of preservation and maybe even a little bit of mourning that’s simultaneous with the act of poetic invention, and that this simultaneity is of incredible importance to art. Without a foot in each universe, I think the imagination runs the risk of becoming sterile and overly formal in its ambitions. And so, yeah, I do think that, in general, the poet speaks from both worlds, and I definitely hope that comes across in my poems. That’s why I think the prologue is such an interesting moment in the play. It champions the self-invented quality of the artwork in a way that refuses to sever the relationship between invention and reality.

Sample Translations:
Cerise Press
Shampoo
Slope