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  • NYS Writers Institute

Video interview: Poet, poetry translator, and essayist Pierre Joris

"I went to see Robert Kelly, the great poet in residence [at Bard College], and asked him, 'I want to write in American, it's my fourth language, how do I do this?' And he said, 'Listen on the radio to baseball. That's the best, most lively, the most accurate, the most interestingly written language you can get.' So I became a Mets fan, and still am."

Pierre Joris

Born on Bastille Day in 1946 in France and raised in Luxembourg, Pierre Joris has moved between the United States, Europe, and North Africa for 55 years. A noted poet, poetry translator, and essayist, Pierre Joris taught poetry and poetics at the University at Albany for 21 years before retiring in 2013.

The author, editor, and translator of more than 60 books, one of foremost translators of avant-garde poetry into both French and English. He was awarded a Berlin Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin in 2003 and has been honored twice with the PEN Translation Prize.

In his most recently published book, Memory Rose into Threshold Speech (2020), Pierre translates the late poet Paul Celan's first four books, written between 1952 and 1963, which established his reputation as the major post-World War II German-language poet. Memory Rose follows up on his 2014 work of translation, Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry, the 2015 National Translation Award winner in Poetry.

Along with his book Microliths They Are, Little Stones: Posthumous Prose, also published in 2020, the only major collection of Paul Celan's prose, Pierre concludes his 52-year involvement with bringing Celan's work into English.

He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — baptized Sorrentinostan by him — with his wife, painter, singer, multimedia artist Nicole Peyrafitte. You may order Pierre's books at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

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