The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts

Issue 13: Summer/Fall 2018

Selected Poems from Our Ghosts and How We Talk to Them

by Carl-Christian Elze, translated by Caroline Wilcox Reul

Special Guest Judge, Tiffany Higgins

In “you’ve been dead three weeks,” Caroline Wilcox Reul maintains the speaker’s consistently casual, sometimes humorous tone when addressing the person who’s come back from the dead to speak: “you sound like / the brothers grimm on valium.” A succession of metaphors is rendered rhythmically: “your words were… / like diamonds…but now / they’re tin, with the hollow ring / of a selfie-dream.” I love that the poet and translator have brought into English this concept of a selfie-dream. Throughout their translations of Carl-Christian Elze’s poems, Reul keeps us in this quirky, ghostly world. There’s comedy in the last stanza, when the speaker has to “tear up” this intrusive visitation; the first stanza’s reassuring statement gets slurred and shredded: “don’t wor/ it’s rea/ rea ood.”

Tiffany Higgins is the author of And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet, selected by Evie Shockley for the Carolina Wren Press Poetry Prize; The Apparition at Fort Bragg, selected by Camille Dungy for theIron Horse Literary Review contest; and Tail of the Whale (Toad Press, 2016), translations from the Portuguese of Rio poet Alice Sant’Anna. Her poems appear in PoetryKenyon Review, and elsewhere. She’s translating the work of Brazilian writers, including Itamar Vieira Junior and Lívia Natália. Her article of narrative journalism, “Brazil’s Munduruku Mark out Their Territory When the Government Won’t,” is forthcoming in Granta’s May 2018 online issue.