I've revisited my introduction to the new book of translations, The BIg Game, by Surrealist Benjamin Péret--for hours a day over the last 30 days. I keep adding, tightening, rereading from the point of view of an American reader whose first encounter with Monsieur Péret might be my intro. I could do this for years, stall, add, go back to France and visit archives. Wait until the economy grows stronger, or until I have my first grandchild.
Or I could stop pretending to be Elizabeth Bishop, and just get on with it! Make my peace with imperfection. (What? What imperfection? Maybe if I just sit with it for another month...)
I'm fine-tuning the translations, that's the fun part. It's the burden of introducing Péret to a new audience that feels like a big responsibility to me. And I need to find a balance between chattiness and elegance, in the tone for my introduction.
I have been to France three times since I started this project, and my French friends continue to weigh in on the line-by-line translations. I love the dialogue with them about the idioms. The book will be richer for the input.
I've begun composing the chronology, and will go back to the intro a few more times. Then I'll need a ceremony of some sort--maybe a seance? Péret would never show up! A good bottle of Bordeaux might work.
Péret has become a muse for my own poetry, a very different one from Dante and Beatrice, who were my last informants. Benny Péret urges me to let go of preconceived ideas, and to just let words have their way. If he were here, he'd probably tell me to stop making a fuss over him, and to let go. We'd listen to my old Fugs album, "Nothing," dance around the living room, and then he'd go back to wherever he came from without saying goodbye.
Causes Marilyn Kallet Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, ACLU, Amnesty International, Save Darfur.