Mike Smith, assistant professor of poetry at Delta State, recently published his third collection of poetry, "Byron in Baghdad" (BlazeVox Books, 2012), along with a translation of J.W. Von-Goethe’s "Faust: A Tragedy."
Smith’s translation is the first part of Goethe’s original two-part tragedy.
“Part two, which is much longer than the first, nearly twice the size of part one, is largely unreadable because Goethe sort of loses his magic,” Smith said.
There has not been a widely accepted translation of the Faust tragedy for quite some time.
“To my mind there hasn’t been a successful translation of Faust in contemporary idiom since C.F. MacIntyre’s 1957 free verse version.”
Smith’s translation is the product of a 10-year collaborative project.
“Often that is how the translation of poetry is done,” Smith said.
“In English at least, people will find a collaborator who provides a word for word equivalency or meta phrase, and it’s the poet’s job to come up with a representative line for the translation.”
Smith said he was astonished by the success his translation had at becoming published.
“Basically the first publisher I sent it to accepted the manuscript,” he said.
Smith’s newest collection of poetry, which he will be reading from Tuesday, is in many ways the opposing end of the spectrum from his last work, "Multiverse."
“The forms here are, more often than not, traditional meter and rhyme.”
Satire is the dominant mode of Smith’s second collection. The opening poem, “She Was a Child Star, R.I.P,” satirizes the cult of a young celebrity, while the title poem “Byron in Baghdad” satirizes Americans response post 9-11.
“The cover photo is actually of one of the first fire engines to respond to 9-11, Engine 55, which was one of the first to arrive at Ground Zero.”
Although his newest collection features some experimental poems such as “US: An Anagram” and “Walk in the Park: A Flash Film,” the dominant strategy in Smith’s book is conventional.
This collection incorporates both sonnets as well as other traditional poetic forms. “I'm always preoccupied with issues of form,” Smith said of his work.
A native of the mountains of West Virginia, Smith said he’s always had trouble taking stock of any one place in his poetry.
“As an adult, I’ve never lived in any one place for more than three years so I’m sort of used to an itinerant lifestyle.”
According to Smith his work doesn’t tend to draw from specific locales though sometimes they tend to surface and he does his best to give them justice.
Admission is free and drinks will be provided.