Review of Meat in Tears on the Fence

Joseph Persad, ‘deeply clueless: consuming Sophie Seita’s Meat’, Tears in the Fence, 65 (Winter/Spring 2017):

Meat has a certain kinship with long English poems from the 18th century on objects of consumption (things like James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane, John Philips’ Cyder, and John Dyer’s The Fleece). […] Where these poets routinely began their poems on colonial modes of production with clear invocations of their subjects (“The care of Sheep, the labors of the Loom, / And arts of Trade, I sing.”, says John Dyer), Meat begins by subverting the formula:

I cannot address it
odourless in its vagueness
it changes beyond appearances
the specificity of typology is owned           We are left wordless
entirely uncoupled           Not the mechanism
of preparing but the substance names, keeps bodies terrestrial.


The poem trembles with the failure to achieve an extra-terrestrial, if not outright spiritual, status, recalling at times the carefully traced pathos of failure that flickered up throughout Denise Riley’s Mop Mop Georgette. Mop Mop Georgette’s engagement with failure led to a wounded pursuit for any residual strength in irony (“And I can’t do this. I can’t talk like any of this. / You hear me not do it.”), and Meat finds strength to continue in the diversity of its approach.


‘This is a fraught poem, bearing witness to an unresolved struggle to live life. Its capacity to include strangeness, hurt, and being ‘deeply clueless’ are taken as emblematic of the conditions of its production, and yet still, this, like the pig guts feasted on by unknowing consumers, is rendered material for wonder’

A new commentary on my translations of Uljana Wolf published at Music & Literature

German studies scholar Heidi Hart writes about Uljana Wolf for Music & Literature, including my translations of her work:

‘Translating Wolf requires dual sensitivity to German and to the English slippages that bring her texts to multilingual life.  Sophie Seita’s 2015 translation of Wolf’s “Anna O.” series takes on its own title from within the text: “i mean i dislike that fate that i was made to where,” these broken lines running from the back of the chapbook-style cover to the front.  Syntactically, “to where” could mean direction or action, a “wh”-word turned verb. In English as inflected with German as Wolf’s source text is in the reverse, Seita’s language-license turns each “annalogue” into an equally slippery mindscape. Each translation mirrors Wolf’s text visually, with a prose poem on the left page and largely white-space, floating text on the right. Since Wolf’s language already incorporates English, Seita keeps those lines while approximating the German language-play with earthy Anglo-Saxon syllables: “oh such recognizing work,” Wolf’s prose poem “annalog von den blumen” begins, “sie sagen überschuss, ich sage bluterguss, blütenstuss.  sie fluffen kissen auf, ich hisse: what can all that green stuff be?”  Here is Seita’s version, which keeps Wolf’s de-hierarchized letters: “oh such recognizing work. they say surplus, i say bloody overplus, blossom guff, they ruffle and puff up pillows, i hiss: what can all this green stuff be?”  The result is that the music of both languages sound more similar than might be expected; it is not so hard to imagine Anna O. sliding with frightening ease between them. A word like “guff” (which means trivial talk) is used so rarely, it might be made up. Although this prose-poetic fantasia is narrated by an Austrian psychoanalytic patient who forgot her native language for a time, that language was German. When she riffs on oranges and flowers and the world’s end in English, with some German slipping through the lace-gaps of her mind, the reader’s experience may actually come closer to the “real” Annalog voice than in Wolf’s lengevitch edition. Readers of Seita’s translation can look forward to a larger selection, Subsisters: Selected Poems, forthcoming later in 2017 from Belladonna Press.’