Fall Poetry PREVIEW: Huckleberry Finn by Martí Sales

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Enter the world as seen through the eyes of Huckleberry Finn—a weary and defeated landscape, but one of inherent hope, where reinvention is possible through the seminal power of words, those elemental beings that are capable of creating realities all their own.

There’s sex, there’s drugs, and there’s rock’n’roll—and all the while, there’s a young man’s search for wisdom through the beauty of literature and love that he finds along the way.

In a style that combines the avant garde tradition with an authentic adventure-style narrative, the poems of Catalan poet Martí Sales’ debut collection Huckleberry Finn usher us in to the primordial experience of giving name to each and every thing, as a means to inaugurate life—or the city of Barcelona, which, in some ways, for Sales and Huckleberry, are one and the same.

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The International Festival of Authors has two focuses this year: Poetry and the literature of Catalonia. BookThug was approached by the IFOA to publish a book by a Catalan author in English translation. And so we bring you Martí Sales’ poetry collection Huckleberry Finn, translated into English by Elisabet Ràfols and Ona Bantjes-Ràfols. Like BookThug, IFOA believes in the possibilities and connections that literary translation gives rise to, and we still fondly remember when we published Pencil of Rays and Spiked Mace in by Danish poet Niels Lyngsø, translated by Gregory Pardlo, who just last year won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. That all happened back in 2004, and BookThug is pleased to work with IFOA to introduce English readers to the literature of another language once again.

While it was something of a challenge to choose a book of Catalan poetry for this project, we chose Martí Sales for a few simple reasons. The first had to do with what we know about Martí himself, a Catalonian poet living in Barcelona who had run and poetry festival and is youngish (born in 1979). We also knew that he had fronted a punk band, and so it was likely that what he was up to would be fresh and new. There was also evidence of worldly reading and listening in the work, most notably demonstrated by the title itself. It made us curious: who is this poet writing in a language with a literary history stretching back to the troubadours and what could the iconic American figure of Huckleberry Finn mean to him? We decided to find out. And now you can too. Martí is a featured presenter at the 36th edition of the IFOA along with his Huckleberry Finn.

Watch Martí read Catalan in the video below.

Praise for Huckleberry Finn:

“A tour de force, this delving into Barcelona, as Martí Sales digs deep into the psyche of the city, making its darknesses and hidden luminosities inform a poetics that echoes the classics in its elegance and beauty, while inventing a new, ultra modern expression of reality now. This excellent translation of Huckleberry Finn will move all who read it to see Catalan poetry in a different light.”
—Beatriz Hausner, author of Enter the Raccoon

Huckleberry Finn is available now. Order your copy here.

Upcoming IFOA Events for Martí Sales:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
IFOA on Tour: Woodstock, featuring Martí Sales, Lauren B. Davis, Farzana Doctor and Terry Fallis.

Where: Knox Presbyterian Church (59 Riddell Street, Woodstock, ON)
When: 7:00 PM
For tickets and more information, please visit Woodstock Public Library (519-539-4801) or Merrifield Bookshop
(519-539-4220)
For more information visit here

Friday, October 23, 2015
“Meet the Catalans.” Get to know the authors participating in IFOA’s Catalonia focus. Join Martí Sales, Anna Aguilar-Amat, Flavia Company, Marc Pastor, Jordi Puntí, Toni Sala, Francesc Serés and Teresa Solana for readings from their latest works, while enjoying traditional Catalan food, drink and music. Journalist Bert Archer acts as MC.

Where: Harbourfront Centre, Pub Hub (235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON)
When: 8:30 PM
Free
For more information visit here

Saturday, October 24, 2015
“Translating Catalan Culture.” Three of Catalonia’s hottest writers, including Martí Sales and his Canadian translator Elisabet Ràfols, will sit down with Jay MillAr, publisher at BookThug, to discuss translation and contemporary Catalan literature.

Where: Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON)
When: 2:00 PM
Price: $18/$15 supporters/FREE students & youth 25 and under
For more information visit here

Sunday October 25, 2015
“At Language’s Edge: Poetry in Translation”, a roundtable with Martí Sales, Anna Aguilar-Amat, Oana Avasilichioaei, and Erín Mouré.

Where: Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON)
When: 2:00 PM
Price: $18/$15 supporters/FREE students & youth 25 and under
For more information visit here

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
“A Celebration of BookThug”, featuring short readings and Q&A by Martí Sales, Kate Hargreaves, Mike Steeves, Jess Taylor, and Liz Worth. Hosted and moderated by Emily M. Keeler.

Where: Pub Hub, Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON)
When: 8:30 PM
Free
For more information visit here

Two Poems from Huckleberry Finn by Martí Sales

BORN TO BE HAGGIS

Everybody’s a star.
—Aeister Crowley, magician

At the steel factory
we dance
parents and children
sweetly knocking
on thirty-nine
communal graves

Every face in its mirror
more sombre each day
watching flesh dry out
from so much pounding

At times, light breaks
slowing down machines
and curbing the racket—
martyrdom
is etched
classically
upon our bodies,
resplendent
as shooting stars:
we seem alive
but we’re only falling

Metallic at night
we draw close
for warmth
but all we’ll achieve
is a dull ringing

Hiding—circumflex—
you dodge the devious light
of a street lamp and enter the bar
that is open late: paths cross here
where you can no longer stand
your thirst

One of the drinkers says
“The sky is too heavy.
That’s why the asphalt is thin,
the cars run as if possessed
from gas station to gas station
toward the mountain, fleeing the voice
that repeats the streets the monuments the buildings
the metro station any route any urban itinerary…
EVERYTHING WILL BE CRUSHED.” shouts
the coryphaeus from the bar

You shut yourself in the washroom
a small stinking sanctuary
of elongated suns
that coddle you,
fluorescent.
you draw a jungle of the Pyrenees
over the map of the city
You look at yourself in the mirror
and draw a moustache and glasses.

MartíSales_AuthorPhoto_Credit_Maria_Dias

Catalan poet Martí Sales works as a freelance writer and translator in Barcelona, Spain, after living for some years in Rome, Cuba, and New York City. Sales has translated the works of John Fante, Kurt Vonnegut, Jim Dodge, Shirley Jackson, and Harold Pinter. He is the author of four books: Huckleberry Finn (the collection of poetry published in Catalan in 2005; winner of the Vila de Lloseta Poetry Prize), Dies feliços a la presó (Happy Days in Prison; prose; 2007), Ara és el moment (Now Is the Hour; essays; 2011), and Principi d’incertesa (Uncertainty Principle; prose; 2015). The English translation of Huckleberry Finn by Elisabet Ràfols and Ona Bantjes-Ràfols, forthcoming from BookThug in the autumn of 2015, is Sales’ first work of poetry to be translated from Catalan into English.

Elisabet

Elisabet Ràfols, a Catalan philologist and literary translator, was born in Barcelona, and after living for two decades in Saskatchewan, recently relocated to Montréal. She translates mainly from English and French into Catalan. Her translations from Catalan are always collaborations, the first one being in 1997 with Anne Szumigalski, Governor General’s Literary Award winner for Vindication of Senyora Clito Mestres by Montserrat Roig. Ràfols’ most recent translation is Penso en Yu by Québécoise playwright Carole Fréchette, which premiered in Barcelona in July 2015.

Ona Bantjes-Ràfols is a Catalan-Canadian who grew up immersed in translation and theatre. She has always been an avid reader, and this love of literature brought her to translation and editing. She has greatly enjoyed the challenge of this poetic collaboration.

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