“To commune with language, of the living and of the dead.” —Erín Moure
Our conversation continues with poet and translator Erín Moure, whose translation of Chantal Neveu’s This Radiant Life—originally published in French as La vie radieuse—celebrates its official publication today; congratulations! In its brevity and persistence, This Radiant Life is a material call for action: it asks us to let go, even just a little bit, of our individuality in favour of mutuality, to arrive separately yet in unison at a radiance in which all living beings can thrive. Neveu draws from the lexicons of science, art, revolution, and corporeal movement to forge intense and extended rhythms that invoke the elements and spaces making up our world. “Powerfully embodied and chiselled by Chantal Neveu and deftly and intricately translated by Erín Moure, This Radiant Life is urgent, alive, and absolutely present,” writes fellow poet and translator Oana Avasilichioaei. We’re grateful to be able to share Erín’s many insights into translation, poetry, and these persistently strange times.
Why do you persist in writing?
Basically, I think, so as not to die.
Why do you persist in translating poetry?
So as to share what I can read and what brings me challenge and delight with those who can’t read it. To commune with language, of the living and of the dead.
If you weren’t where you are, where would you be persisting?
Where I could visit my grandnieces and grandnephew in person instead of on Zoom. Or under a tree.
What is it like to persist into older age?
Kind of achey, in the joints. Otherwise it’s kind of interesting; your body changes in surprising ways; your face changes.
What time of year do you like best?
The time that it is now. All the moments.
What books are you reading?
Habiter en oiseau, by Vinciane Despret; A Revolutionary Calendar, by Zoë Skoulding; The Man With a Hole in his Tie, by Alex Bodea; Lola Arias: Reenacting Life, edited by Jean Graham-Jones.
What are you waiting to translate?
Chus Pato’s next book of poetry, Sonora, which she isn’t finished writing yet.
Why did you translate Chantal Neveu’s La vie radieuse (This Radiant Life)?
When I first heard her read from it at the book launch in 2016 from behind a bookshelf in a bookstore on rue St. Hubert, I realized that it was an amazing syncopation and light and that its rhythms and language were like core samples taken from the middle of the earth. She has other translators so I didn’t dare suggest I might translate it. Later she asked me in the midst of a busy period and I told her I couldn’t. So she waited. And I did. It was marvellous to work with her on the revisions; though the work traversed a difficult period in her health and life, she gave me and the work every attention. And now you can read the book.
What literary event did you last watch on Zoom or YouTube?
Kaie Kellough and Jason Sharp performing for the Aga Khan Museum and The Music Gallery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDErPx7xz-U
What is good about Zoom compared to live events?
I don’t have to worry about getting ill or having allergic reactions. And I can attend with friends from other cities.
What is best?
The friends. And the trees.
What do you realize?
What do you advise?
To be kind.
As a bonus, please enjoy the following video, in which Erín Moure reads from This Radiant Life.
Erín Moure has published over forty books, including poetry, essays, memoir, and translations/co-translations from French, Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, Portunhol, and Ukrainian. Recent translations: In Leaf by Rosalía de Castro, The Uplands: Book of the Courel by Uxío Novoneyra, and Sleepless Nights Under Capitalism by Juan Gelman. Moure holds two honorary doctorates from universities in Canada and Spain, was a 2017 Creative Fellow at Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room, and the 2019 International Translator in Residence at Queen’s College, Oxford. Moure lives in Montreal.
Chantal Neveu is the author of five books of poetry, including La vie radieuse (This Radiant Life, Book*hug); coït (Coït, Book*hug); mentale, Une spectaculaire influence (A Spectacular Influence, Book*hug), and èdres (É=É). She has created numerous interdisciplinary literary works, presented in Canada and abroad. Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies: Cyclages/Grupmuv, Espaces de savoir, Laboratoire parcellaire. She has held residencies at Maison de la poésie de Nantes (France), Passa Porta and Villa Hellebosch (Belgium), and Villa Waldberta (Germany). Neveu lives in Montreal.