Arts and Culture

Visiting Artists Program sponsors poet, translator Mira Rosenthal

On Feb. 19, some of Wheaton’s aspiring poets were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hear readings by the distinguished poet and writer, Mira Rosenthal. Her visit was courtesy of the Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program, which brings various artists to campus every year, including musicians, visual artists, writers, and dancers.

Rosenthal is the author of the poetry collection “The Local World.” a collection of poetry. Most of her poetry focuses on travel and how we define “home.” It’s no wonder she would have such an interest in travel being not only a poet in her own right, but also a translator of Polish poetry. She has translated two prize-winning volumes of poems by Polish poet Tomasz Rozycki after spending time in Poland on a Fulbright scholarship.

She started the event by talking about calling herself a poet, saying she could not mark exactly when she started, but that it felt strange at first, and in certain situations, she referred to herself as a writer instead of a poet. The reading began with a poem called “Mysticism in the Dark” followed by “Curtain.”

Her poems were predominantly narrative. Some concerned current events, like her poem “The Leech Pond,” which concerned violence against women, and “Swallow,” which was about a sinkhole swallowing several cars from a corvette museum as well as a response to a friends’ criticism of “kitchen sink poems.” Others were about events in her own life, like “Visiting Father’s Childhood Apartment,” which is exactly what it sounds like, and “Foreign in a Foreign Country” from The Local World, in which she described the feeling of being foreign.

When talking about the numerous grants she had received for her craft that allowed her to travel, she jokingly described herself as “really good at getting people to give me money to sit and do nothing” and went on to advise any artists in the audience to learn this skill.

Another more recent interest she expressed was in public transportation, as seen in her poem, “The Very Idea of a Bridge,” which she introduced by saying, “I’m gonna get weird here.”

The reading ended with Rosenthal reading two poems she had translated, one of which she read in Polish. These poems were titled “Scorched Maps” and “Fresh Meat,” though she noted for the latter that the Polish title could also be translated as “Slaves.”

In the Q&A that followed, she discussed more about the difficulties and complexities of translation. When asked whether she would translate her poems into Polish, she readily responded with a “No,” citing the difficulty of translating from one language into a non-native language. The Q&A was then followed by a book signing.

The general consensus of the audience was that her poetry was a truly captivating experience, making an hour-long event seem only five minutes, a hallmark of a fantastic reading.