Finalist, 2020 Miller Williams Poetry Prize
A translator’s notebook, an almanac, an ecological history, Judy Halebsky’s Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged) moves between multiple intersections and sign systems connected in a long glossary poem that serves as the book’s guide to what is lost, erased, or disrupted in transition both from experience to written word and from one language, location, and time period to another.
Writers Li Bai, Matsuo Bashō, Sei Shōnagon, and Du Fu make frequent appearances in centuries ranging from the eighth to the twenty-first, and appear in conversation with Grace Paley, Donald Hall, and Halebsky herself, as the poet explores subjects ranging from work and marriage to environmental destruction. Asking what would happen if these poets—not just their work—appeared in California, the poems slip between different geographies, syntaxes, times, and cultural frameworks.
The role of the literary translator is to bring text from one language into another, working to at once shift and retain the context of the original—from one alphabet to another, one point in time to another. These are poems in homage to translation; they rely on concepts that can bridge time and space, and as a result are as likely to find meaning in donuts or Zumba as they are to find it in the ocean. Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged) finds reasons for hope not in how the world should be, but in how it has always been.
Supported by the Miller and Lucinda Williams Poetry Fund.