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The Star Wizard's Legacy cover
The Star Wizard's Legacy - 2010

The Star Wizard's Legacy Introduction

The following poems were translated by Vasko Popa and me in the spring of 1970 when Popa was visiting the United States as part of an international poetry forum in Washington DC. After the forum, Popa came to the West Coast where I was his host for the State Department, and we prepared for his readings at Cabrillo College, where I taught, and at The University of California at Berkeley, where Czeslaw Milosz sponsored his appearance. For five days Popa and I sat together polishing the poems, working from recent translations by Charlie Simic and published translations by Popa’s official translator, Anne Pennington. With us was Popa’s State Department translator, a Slovenian, who had accompanied Popa on his several readings across the country. Popa spoke almost no English and the process was difficult but rewarding — and a lot of fun for both of us. In the end, Popa proclaimed that these translations best captured the spirit of his poems in English and hoped that I could get them to Simic before he published his versions. Unfortunately, it was too late for that.

Popa also felt loyalty to his British translator, Anne Pennington, and he made it clear he didn’t want me to publish these translations on my own. For the past thirty-eight years I have honored that request. But now both Popa and his translator have long since shook off their mortal coils, Charlie’s translations have been out of print since the early 1980s, the Pennington translation, incorporated into an expanded collected poems, was published in Britain in 1996, fifteen years after her death, and I think it is high time to once again bring Vasko’s singularly original work to the American reading public, if not the British.

These are the sequences we read from at Cabrillo and Berkeley, all except “Give Me Back My Little Rags,” which Charlie Simic and I worked on together and Charlie published in a different form years later in Ploughshares. Except for minor alterations to smooth the English phrasing, I have left the poems as they were translated during those fateful five days, which I have always remembered with great joy. I hope some of that joy will be experienced by the reader who has not encountered Vasko Popa’s extraordinary poetry until now.

                                                               Morton Marcus
                                                               Santa Cruz, California
                                                               2009


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