Is It Really Poetry?

What counts as poetry these days? Forgive me if I don’t waste your time trying to answer that. All I’ll say for now is that “A Translator’s Note,” which appears innocently enough on page 9 of the 2018 volume of The Best American Poetry, well deserves to be there.

On encountering “A Translator’s Note,” I took it to be some straightforward introductory thing, prelude to a piece from the Russian or Italian or French that I’d find on turning the page. After all, in form it looked the part — two hefty prose paragraphs I was certain I’d want to skip, or at most to scan dutifully.

But when I dipped a toe into the first paragraph, I knew this was no translator’s note in any conventional sense. No, indeed. What I had was a sly delight. I’ll not say more. I’ll just encourage you not to pass on the piece, mistaking it for some tedious exercise. It’s not that sort of dry. It’s wry, and we’ll worth a read and a reread.

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