Dear Emily,

In a recent trip to Northern Chile, subsequent to an archaeologists’ conference at the University of Santiago, I came across a small bookstore outside San Pedro of Atacama—really, in the middle of nowhere—Librería del Desierto https://libreriadeldesierto.cl —owned and operated by poet Diego Alamo, where in the back of the room on the “poetry shelf” I found a copy of Alexandra Papaditsas and Kent Johnson’s The Miseries of Poetry: Traductions From The Greek. Can you please confirm that the translator of this most rare and exquisite collection of post-Homeric Greek lyric is the same Kent Johnson who edits Dispatches from the Poetry Wars? The possibility was first suggested by a colleague, here at the University of Queensland, who alerted me to your column.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

An Aging Australian Archeologist, Ph.D.

 

Dear Aging Australian Archeologist, Ph.D.,

Indeed, as a Google return confirms (Google is a very handy search engine), on what is generally called the Internet (if it has reached Australia), Kent Johnson is the co-translator, with Alexandra Papaditsas, of The Miseries of Poetry. He is the same difficult person who is the co-editor, with Michael Boughn, of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, yes.

Just kidding about the Internet thing, sorry… I have the 2003 chapbook right here in front of me, a rare copy, with Johnson’s signature, purchased from a book dealer in (you won’t believe this) Australia. The book is briefly prefaced by Slavoj Zizek, followed by a tribute from Johnson to Papaditsas, and introduced, rather bizarrely, by the last, who was reportedly murdered a year before the book appeared. Readers can view these prefatory texts and most of the book’s “traductions” here, and I highly recommend doing so, for various reasons, none of which I feel the need to specify: “Imitation, Traduction, Fiction, Response.”

As you have apparently already seen, the print version opens with a total of 45 blurbs (they take up nearly half the space of the edition), only two of which are apparently fabricated.

There is a mention somewhere in the book about the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the singular, ongoing performance/Believe It or Not space curated by David Wilson in Los Angeles, California (I say California, because there is a Los Angeles, Chile, actually, where Roberto Bolaño spent part of his youth). And this is strange, because I can think of nothing more Museum of Jurassic Technology-like than this literary/poetry bookstore smack in the middle of the most parched and desolate desert on the planet, the Atacama. I am so inspired by it, in fact, that I want to donate my copy of The Miseries of Poetry to this bookstore in the middle of nowhere, along with my first-edition copy of Pale Fire, signed by Nabokov himself.

It is the least I can do. I would be honored to contribute in this way to such a remarkably existing poetic fact as Diego Alamo’s impossible bookstore. (I wonder if Andrés Ajens, Contributing Editor in Chile to Dispatches, knows of it.) Much as I like the chapbook you ask about, I find this Librería del Desierto, as a place, space, and event, to be a much more amazing and moving poetic achievement. Do you have a postal address, assuming mail is delivered in the middle of the Atacama desert?

Thank you,

—Emily Post-Avant