Two Lines: Power (co-edited)

All neighbors of the flesh
—form, fields of wheat, emptiness—
are gathered in its immediacy.

—Eunice Odio (trans. by Keith Ekiss & Sonia P. Ticas)


Two Lines: Power, guest-edited by Geoffrey Brock (poetry) and Marian Schwartz (prose), gathers writing from around the world on the theme of power. Whether it is Cho Se-hui’s story about a hunger strike in a Korean factory (tr. Don Mee Choi) or Milena Jesenská’s essay on what it means to stand still amidst the chaos of occupied Czechoslovakia (tr. Andrée Collier Záleská). Power implodes in Xue Di’s poem of rage (tr. Hil Anderson & Forrest Gander) and drives desire in Marina Tsvetaeva’s tender love poems (tr. Kristin Becker). Other contributors include Eunice Odio (tr. Keith Ekiss & Sonia P. Ticas), Romagnolo poet Raffaello Baldini (tr. Adria Bernardi), Sumerian poet Enheduanna (tr. Betty De Shong Meador), and Moroccan author Fouad Laroi (tr. Maureen Lucier), and many others.



XUE DI (trans. from the Chinese by Hil Anderson & Forrest Gander)

  • Translators’ Introduction 
  • Rage
MARINA TSVETAEVA (trans. from the Russian by Kristin Becker)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • “Where does such tenderness come from?”
  • “In order to get to your mouth and your bed”
  • “And in the confinement of wintry rooms”
RAFFAELLO BALDINI (trans. from the Romagnole by Adria Bernardi
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Picking
ROZA MOISEIEVNA BERSHTYN (trans. from the Russian by Diana Blank)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Roza Moiseievna Remembers the Flood that Wasn’t—A Conversation
DAGMAR NICK (trans. from the German by Eavan Boland)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • No Man’s Land
ALCAEUS (trans. from the ancient Greek by Peter Campion)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • The Infraction—Fragment 298
CHO SE-HUI (trans. from the Korean by Don Mee Choi)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • We Didn’t Know
STEFANO BENNI (trans. from the Italian by Chad Davidson & Marella Feltrin-Morris)
  • Translators’ Introduction
  • When You Are Truly in Love
EUNICE ODIO (trans. from the Spanish by Keith Ekiss & Sonia P. Ticas)
  • Translators’ Introduction
  • Integration of the Parents
  • Faithful, Belle, and Treu: What Gets Found by Duncan, Beckett, Celan
HÉDI KADDOUR (trans. from the French by Marilyn Hacker)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Trees
  • The Flock
FOUAD LAROUI (trans. from the French by Maureen Lucier)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • A Little Bit of Moroccan Soil
ENHEDUANNA (trans. from the Sumerian by Betty De Shong Meador)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Hymn to the Eshumesha Temple of Ninurta
  • Hymn to the Eanna Temple of Inanna
LUCIO MARIANI (trans. from the Italian by Anthony Molino)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • New Myths
  • Protocols of War
CLAUDIA LARS (trans. from the Spanish by Philip Pardi)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • A Better Language
  • Ambition
GONZALO ROJAS (trans. from the Spanish by John Oliver Simon)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Microfilm of the Abyss
LUCRETIUS (trans. from the Latin by A.E. Stallings)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • On the Nature of Things (excerpt)
JUHANI AHO (trans. from the Finnish by Jill Graham Timbers)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Schoolday Memories
YAHYA KEMAL / PIR SULTAN APTAL (trans. from the Turkish by Sidney Wade, with Yurdanur Salman & Güneli Gün)
  • Translators’ Introduction
  • Yahya Kemal: Göztepe Ghazal
  • Pir Sultan Aptal: The Sufi Way
ZALMAN LIBIN / ZVULUN LEVIN (trans. from the Yiddish by Albert Waldinger)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Zalman Libin: A Yiddish-Speaking Socialist
  • Zvulun Levin: A Hush
ISABEL BALLA (trans. from the Spanish by Donald A. Yates)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • Come Home, Mabel
MILENA JESENSKÁ (trans. from the Czech by Andrée Collier Záleská)
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • On the Art of Standing Still


by Olivia Sears

In this volume, we see the power of human transformation—the urge to create something new of ourselves, the courage to interrupt the flow of routine for something we believe in, whether through a hunger strike in a Korean factory or by standing still amidst the chaos of occupied Czechoslovakia. We see the power of hidden agendas at work in Italian and Argentine letters—and how these currents can sometimes be as obvious as the electricity that surrounds us in our everyday lives. We see power imploding in a Chinese poem of rage and witness Russian love poems borne of powerful desire, despite dire circumstances. As always, we see translators standing on their predecessors’ shoulders to examine the expanse of great poems ripe for retranslation, poems like the ancient Greek text published in its remaining fragments here. We see the interaction between translator and author at its most imaginative, with the power even to reshape a piece in its original language. And we see that the power of belief survives—whether carved five thousand years ago on a clay tablet, published in the underground press fifty years ago, or written about just this year—resilient in its travels from one language to the next.

Finally, of course, language itself is power. Consider the impact and potential finality of simple phrases like “I do,” “I solemnly swear,” or “Charge!” Words can set events irrevocably in motion: “Lights! Camera! Action!”; “Ready! Set! Go!”; “Ready, Aim, Fire!” The film is rolling, the racers have left their marks, bullets are flying, regardless of what is said next. Think of the mighty whose words have proven their undoing: “I am not a crook.” “Read my lips: no new taxes.” “I never had sex with that woman.” We are never more aware of the power of words than when we are deprived of them. In a nation that theoretically values the freedom of expression, many voices are still censored, even silenced. Some are accused of giving solace to the enemy because they speak against the political establishment; others are accused of collaborating with criminals simply for translating their words. Unbelievably, even editors and publishers may now face serious legal consequences for working on manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the grounds that any alterations to such texts amount to trading with the enemy. 

The English politician Lord Hallifax once said, “Power is so apt to be insolent and Liberty to be saucy, that they are very seldom upon good terms.“ In the face of such an abundance of muscle-flexing, we decided to pay tribute to this year’s TWO LINES theme with a power-sharing arrangement of our own: we invited two guest editors to take the helm while I wrestled with the awesome powers of a newborn baby. Marian Schwartz, renowned Russian translator and former president of the American Literary Translators’ Association took charge of the prose; Geoffrey Brock, Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford and award-winning Italian translator, handled the poetry. Unilateral force can be a lonely way to go, and we were delighted to establish this balance of power.