Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Luscious autumnal melancholy

So here's a book I think would be lovely for autumn, The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation, ed. Greg Delanty and Michael Matto, with an introduction by Seamus Heaney.

The dazzling variety of Anglo-Saxon poetry brought to life by an all-star cast of contemporary poets in an authoritative bilingual edition.

Encompassing a wide range of voices-from weary sailors to forlorn wives, from heroic saints to drunken louts, from farmers hoping to improve their fields to sermonizers looking to save your soul—the 123 poems collected in The Word Exchange complement the portrait of medieval England that emerges from Beowulf, the most famous Anglo-Saxon poem of all. Offered here are tales of battle, travel, and adventure, but also songs of heartache and longing, pearls of lusty innuendo and clear-eyed stoicism, charms and spells for everyday use, and seven "hoards" of delightfully puzzling riddles.

Featuring all-new translations by seventy-four of our most celebrated poets—including Seamus Heaney, Robert Pinsky, Billy Collins, Eavan Boland, Paul Muldoon, Robert Hass, Gary Soto, Jane Hirshfield, David Ferry, Molly Peacock, Yusef Komunyakaa, Richard Wilbur, and many others—The Word Exchange is a landmark work of translation, as fascinating and multivocal as the original literature it translates.

I've read a variety of translations of a variety of Old English poems, and the translation really matters. I'd love to curl up in front of the fire in November and sip tea while musing on top-notch versions of the elegaic "The Ruin" or the howling loneliness of "The Wife's Lament." Luscious autumnal melancholy.

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