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From the Poet Laureate

Celebrate language by using foriegn language prompts to write poetry in English.

“From the Poet Laureate,” highlights Jonie McIntire, Poet Laureate of Lucas County (2022-2024). The poetry editor Of Rust and Glass, McIntire’s most recent chapbook, Semidomesticated (Red Flag Poetry, 2021) won Red Flag Poetry’s 2020 chapbook contest and went into a second printing within a year of release. Her prior chapbooks include Beyond the Sidewalk (Nightballet Press, 2017) and Not All Who Are Lost Wander (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her poems, published in print journals, anthologies, online and even into cement, have been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prize. McIntire hosts a monthly reading series, Uncloistered Poetry from Toledo. Learn more about her at https://www.joniemcintire.net.

Poetry is a celebration of language. The meanings of words, as well as the sounds and look of words allow languages that are not our own to be fertile soil for new ideas. Poets who work in translation must understand the languages they are translating, from and to, while also considering the author’s intent. In reading one of my favorite poets who works in translation, Toledo’s very own Don Cellini, I found a fascinating prompt from his book Translate Into English (Mayapple Press, 2010). While looking at a Spanish grammar book that focused on direct translation of words, sentences were written in Spanish and students were directed to translate the sentences, practicing different verb tenses. But Cellini was struck by the sentences. How each one seemed to have a story of its own. 

So here’s your prompt: go out and seek something written in another language. Translate a sentence or section. (Use Google Translate, nobody needs to know!) Now write the story of that sentence. What came before, what it means. Keep the original sentence in its original language. Read it over to yourself, listening to the sound of the words. Let that inform what you write.

Era inútil hacer ningún esfuerzo para huir.

At the window. Rain. Check email. Check voicemail. The 

blank page. Make coffee. More rain. Old magazines. The 

window. The coffee and the blank page. The email. The 

voice mail. The rain. Puddles on the sidewalk. Streams in 

the street. The email. The magazines and the coffee. An old 

umbrella behind the door. The coffee. The blank page. The 

puddles. The rain. The stream. The bathroom. The blank 

page. The old magazines. The window. The umbrella: yellow 

smiley faces; two broken ribs. The voice mail. The email. The 

coffee. Escape into the rain with the old umbrella?

It was useless to make any effort to flee.

          – Don Cellini, from Translate Into English (Mayapple press, 2010)

Enjoy the sounds of words, their music, where languages sound the same and differ.

MLiving invites you to send your original poetry or your response to the above prompt to us at MLEditor@adamsstreetpublishing.com.  We will post some of the responses we receive on our website, along with your name.  We will select our favorite and that person will receive a restaurant gift card. Submissions due in our email box by July 30, 2022.

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