The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts

Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2017

Quotidian Blues

by Ganna Shevchenko, translated by Anne Gutt

Special Guest Judge, Carolyn L. Tipton

Anne Gutt has brought alive for us the strange and magical world of Russian poet Ganna Shevchenko. Though the collection of poems is titled ‘Quotidian Blues,’ the poet’s vision is anything but ordinary; she, herself, says she ‘see[s] almost nothing / except the birds / sitting in the palms of [her] hands.’ Through Anne Gutt, we enter a wonderland where the poet, following a white rabbit, goes into a café where, ‘next to the prices for Italian pizza / are three faint and roughly drawn arrows / “right,” “left” and “ahead.” / Under the “right” arrow it says “how you live,” / under the “left” arrow it says “how you die.” / … / I would choose the arrow “ahead,” but the inscription below is erased.’ We leave these poems with our minds slightly altered. It is Gutt’s particular skill to render this fantastical world in lucid English; the odd images come through with clarity; no ‘translation murkiness’ adheres to them. Moreover, the translator has given us English poems which, like the original poems, are musical, but whose music is subtle, and thus, more pleasing to most English readers; for example, rather than giving us full rhyme, she has used half-rhyme and assonance. I am so grateful to Anne Gutt for producing poems which feel as if they have been written in English, but which bring us not only a foreign world, but a quirky and original perception of this world.”

Dr. Carolyn L. Tipton is a poet, translator, and teacher. She has been awarded both an N.E.H. and an N.E.A. Her first book of translations of the poetry of Rafael Alberti, To Painting (Northwestern University Press), won the National Translation Award. It was also a finalist for the PEN West Award in Literary Translation and was selected by Poet Laureate Robert Hass for Poet’s Choice. Her latest translation of Alberti, Returnings: Poems of Love and Distance (White Pine Press), is the recipient of the Cliff Becker Translation Prize.