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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Behind the Masthead: Brian Bender, International Poetry Editor

With the end of the year comes the end of the current staff at HFR… but it also brings with it a new staff! They're already hard at work on the fall issue, and they've even launched a flash fiction contest. Kacie Blackburn sat down with Brian Bender and asked him how it feels to be stepping up to the international poetry spot.

Kacie Blackburn: As one of the international editors, what do you do?

Brian Bender: Primarily my job is to consider international submissions and translations for publication at HFR.

KB: Do you ever have any trouble with the translations? By trouble, I mean have there been words that were untranslatable that caught your eye and puzzled you?

BB: Well—yes and no. Translation is a tricky thing in that the translator has to capture the language, cadence, intention (etc., etc.) of the original writer to the best of his or her ability; however, there are major inconsistencies between languages and not everything has a perfect twin (see idiomatic expressions, slang, dialect, all that good stuff—). This isn’t news to the world, but as an international editor, I have to trust the expertise and creative mind of the translator in order to fully magnify the original’s beauty and usefulness for our magazine. Of course there are many more causes of trouble an editor could encounter…but at the end of the day: what delights, delights.

KB: What type of submissions do you prefer: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, all of the above? What truly stands out to you?

BB: As an MFA candidate in poetry at ASU, poetry submissions are generally the easiest and most emotionally resonant for me. Stories and essays are great too, but a good poetry submission greets me with a wink and smile.

KB: Were there any memorable poems that you came across in submissions?

BB: Often I find a door I’ve not yet been through.

KB: How many different languages can you understand?

BB: I prefer to think I’d survive in France for a night or two. But other than that, I leave the translating up to the translators.

KB: Who is your favorite author or poet? Why?

BB: I first met poetry with a poem by James Wright, and since then I haven’t been able to shake him. He and I were both Midwesterners, and his poems reflected on the region with a quiet introversion I’d always appreciated and felt seriously drawn to. Since then I’ve been trying to emulate that (and other things) in one way or another—for better or worse.

KB: Do you remember the name of first poem you read by James Wright? You mentioned, overall, his poems reflect on the region. Was there something specific in this first poem that caught your interest?

BB:Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” is the answer everyone expects, but they’re right. Without going into critical statements about the poem or personal statements about my life at that time, I can say that the poem walked along on the perfect day. The last line startled me and delighted me and sent me off into the world with a packed lunch.

KB: Do you do any writing in your spare time?

BB: Definitely. Right now I’m working on a book-length poem. It’s been a slow process so far, but a process nonetheless.

KB: Could you tell us a little about this long poem? How long have you been writing it?

BB: In my undergrad an older poet told me: your poems are too short. Six years later my poems are even shorter. I had to change that. So last fall I gave a reading and squished together something like 25 poems into a single one. It died on the table, but the idea crystallized from there.

KB: Have you worked with HFR before this semester?

BB: I used to help out with the poetry submissions awhile back, but hadn’t done anything too serious. I was invited to be international co-editor at a Christmas party and it sounded like a good fit. So far it’s been great.

KB: Do you plan to continue working with HFR?

BB: Only if I get an office. I still don’t have an office.

KB: What have you enjoyed most about working with HFR, so far?

BB: I like having the opportunity to recognize and publish emerging talent. Even if we don’t accept a submission, it’s always fun to see the great things poets and writers are working at. That’s such a boring answer, but it’s true. Such colorful minds.

Brian Bender is a poet living in Tempe, AZ, and international co-editor at Hayden's Ferry Review.

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