Truly, the most important reading I did last year was Beowulf. I got to read it in the original Old English with a group of amazingly brilliant people and to live in that super soundrich world for about two months. We also looked at a couple other translations; the Thom Meyer is really special. The next most important reading was for my comprehensive exams, which I wrote about here.
Hmm. I don’t really mean to hierarchize the value of these books. This is wrong. Maybe, since so far things have been listed chronologically (did Beowulf early last year, comps reading during the summer): a third highlight was Michael Donhauser’s Of Things (trans. Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron), which I read toward the end of the year, on my multiple flights home to Bangalore. It is a gorgeous and fierce book that reads fieldlife:
from “The Tomato”
To say once more “the tomato.”
On this autumn-saturated Sunday evening.
At the quiet of day’s end, the ringing of bells, cries of farewell.
When the fun stops and with it, the feeling of its insufficiency.
The waiting, the passing in silence, the rustling of leaves, being nowhere.
When Sunday, diminishing gradually, retires.
In sitting there, in spoiling away, in willingness.
With which we endure it: in praise of enduring.
To say it: that this has been a beautiful Sunday.
Yet the tomato takes the evening as an opportunity.
Favored by the given conditions: in all their sparseness.
By way of the light: allowing it to gently settle there.
By way of the surging traffic: in order to absorb it.
The humming, the droning, the vibrating: in order to transpose it.
Into the quieter variety of its seeds, into the juice of its fruit-flesh.
(No fruit has ever robbed me of every rebellion like this.)
The tomato appears in the shadow of language.
As moon (once again): as monad.
Darkened: a silken coal ember.
Here are the rest of my favorite books from last year:
Beowulf. Ed. George Jack. Clarendon Press, 1997.
Beowulf. Translated from the Old English by Thomas Meyer. punctum books, 2012.
Etel Adnan. The Arab Apocalypse. 1980. Translated from the French by Etel Adnan. Post-Apollo Press, 2006.
Etel Adnan. Premonition. Kelsey Street Press, 2014.
Inger Christensen. it. 1969. Translated from the Danish by Susanne Neid. New Directions, 2006.
Beverly Dahlen. A Reading 1-7. Momo’s Press, 985.
Michael Donhauser. Of Things. 1993. Translated from the German by Andrew Joron & Nick Hoff. Burning Deck, 2015.
Geoffrey Hill. King Log. 1968. [New and Collected Poems 1952-1992]. Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Julie Kalendek. Our Fortunes. Burning Deck, 2003.
Michael Palmer. Notes for Echo Lake. 1981. [Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988]. New Directions, 2001.
Nicolas Pesquès. Physis. 2008. Translated from the French by Cole Swensen. Parlor Press, 2007.
Lisa Robertson. The Men. BookThug, 2006.
Rosmarie Waldrop. Third Person Singular. Anomalous Press, 2015.
Urs Allemann. Babyfucker. Translated from the German by Peter Smith. Les Figues Press, 2010.
Maurice Blanchot. Death Sentence. 1948. Translated from the French by Lydia Davis. Station Hill Press, 1998.
Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter. 1850. W. W. Norton, 1988.
Anne Rice. Interview with the Vampire. 1976. Ballantine Books, 1977.
Etel Adnan. Journey to Mount Tamalpais. Post-Apollo Press, 1986.
David Bellos. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything. 2011. Faber & Faber, 2012.
Robert Bresson. Notes sur le cinématographe. 1975. Gallimard, 1995.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. What Is Philosophy? 1991. Translated from the French by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. Columbia University Press, 1994.
Michel Foucault. The Will to Knowledge (The History of Sexuality, Volume I). 1976. Translated from the French by Robert Hurley. Penguin, 1998.
Hervé Guibert. Suzanne et Louise. 1980. Gallimard, 2006.
Joyelle McSweeney and Johannes Göransson. Deformation Zone: On Translation. Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012.
Ian Robinson. The Establishment of Modern English Prose in the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Lawrence Venuti. The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation. 1995. Routledge, 2008.
Lawrence Venuti, ed. The Translation Studies Reader. 2000. Routledge, 2012.