PLATTSBURGH — Poet Mark Statman dabbles in translation.
This trajectory began when the Long Island native turned to Federico García Lorca’s “Poet in New York” to make sense of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City.
Statman, an associate professor of Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for the Liberal Arts, was not alone.
Colleague Pablo Medina was also reading “Poet in New York” for the same solace.
Though translations were previously published in the 1950s and 1980s of Lorca’s seminal work, Statman and Medina collaborated on a new translation of the Spanish poet and playwright’s masterpiece. Their bilingual edition was published in 2008 by Grove Press.
Statman will be reading poems from that book and his latest works, “A Map of the Winds” (Lavender Ink, 2013) and “Black Tulips: The Selected Poems of José María Hinojosa” (University of New Orleans Press, 2012), today at CVH Commons at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“‘Poet in New York’ is the second most important book written by a Spaniard besides ‘Don Quixote,’” said Statman while driving up from New York City with his wife, the painter Katherine Koch.
While researching Lorca, Hinojosa’s name kept popping up during the Spanish Civil War era.
“He was a colleague of Federico García Lorca’s that had been forgotten,” Statman said. “When most of his generation was going left, Hinojosa went to the right. He was friends with Miró (Joan Miró i Ferrà) and Dalí (Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol) and all those famous surrealists. He went to the right, and they were going left. He decided to fight against the Republic. Three days after García Lorca was murdered in 1936 by right-wing sympathizers, Hinojosa was murdered by left-wing sympathizers.”
Statman translated Hinojosa’s selected poems.
“That was a finalist for National Translation Award,” he said.
Statman thought his editor, Bill Lavender, so brilliant, he followed him to his press, Lavender Ink, which published Statman’s most recent book, “A Map of the Winds.”
“When I read tomorrow night, I will read from ‘Black Tulips,’ and from ‘Tourist at a Miracle’ (Hanging Loose, 2012) and one poem from ‘Poet in New York’ to contrast Hinojosa and Garcia Lorca’s work,” he said.
Statman’s other books include “Listener in the Snow” (Teachers & Writers, 2000) and, with Christian McEwen, “The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing” (Teachers & Writers, 2000).
His poetry, essays and translations have appeared in nine other anthologies, as well as such publications as Tin House, The Cincinnati Review and American Poetry Review.
Statman has appearances on Poetry Daily, The Bob Edwards Show and PBS New York Voices.
He is a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Writers Project.
Statman, of part-Cuban ancestry, has spent a lot of time in Mexico, Central and South America, where he is immersed in Spanish-language poetry.
He came to poetry as a teen and discovered the Beat Poets. He read the works of Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Gregory Corso.
“I did my undergraduate work at Columbia,” Statman said. “I had the opportunity to study with Kenneth Koch and David Shapiro. I didn’t major in literature. I majored in religious studies.”
Post-college Statman worked at a theater that specialized in training actors in working with literary text.
Statman married the daughter of his former instructor. For their honeymoon, they traveled to Paris and Rome.
“Of my seven books, she’s done the artwork for five of the covers. I came back from Europe and spent a little time at the University of Virginia outside of Charlottesville, and my wife painted.”
He nixed the idea of earning doctorate to write.
“It’s the thing that makes me the happiest in the world,” Statman said. “For me, it’s a way of making sense of the world and being in the world, of helping make it. When you write something, you are putting something in the world that’s a little different and a little original that other people can look at and give them a chance to think, wonder and imagine. Maybe you can touch their emotions. Make them sad, angry. Being a poet and creating poetry (is) the country I live in.”
Email Robin Caudell:email@example.comIF YOU GO WHO: Mark Statman, poet and translator. WHEN: 8 tonight. WHERE: CVH Commons, Champlain Valley Hall, SUNY Plattsburgh. ADMISSION: Free.