VIDA Reads with Writers – Farnoosh Fathi!

What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?

Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris (FSG, 2014). This is actually a massive hardcover tome, but that should tell you something about the herculean power just reading Celan can give you. Also: Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy (Spiegel & Grau, 2014).

What book popped for you in 2015?

Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories, translated by Katrina Dodson and published by New Directions.  All the New Directions translations of Lispector’s novels are gifts, and the shorter form of the stories only make me want to work at my Portuguese. Apparently it’s actually easier to read Lispector if you don’t know Portuguese, because the native Brazilian reader is admitted to subtle, extra chambers of her fully aware unruliness. The Brazilian poet Lêdo Ivo wrote, “the foreignness of her prose is one of the most overwhelming facts of our literary history and even of the history of our language.” Translator Benjamin Moser adds, “This is because her subtle rearrangements of everyday language are so surprising […] they veer toward abstraction without ever quite reaching it.”

I appreciate this question very much. It makes me wonder how many conditions must collude for a book to pop at all, and truly, for one person. And how vital translation is; and that between the dead and the living—and perhaps particularly those forgotten, never known and misunderstood authors—there’s a richness in store.

Whose words do you return to regularly?

Joan (Vincent) Murray, a visionary Canadian-American poet who died in 1942, just shy of her 25th birthday. W.H. Auden, John Ashbery, Mark Ford, and Shanna Compton have all championed her work over the decades, yet as she died young and her only collection was published posthumously, and furthermore she left no completed book manuscript, her work has remained relatively unknown, and out of print for over fifty years.

The wonderful news is that, in 2013, a trunk of the long-thought-lost original texts of her poems, including many of those poems that were omitted or altered by the editor for the Yale Younger edition of 1947, miraculously resurfaced at the Smith College archives. Along with these poems were also hundreds of pages of letters, plays and novels that are such a gift. I have since had the privilege of working with these original materials at the Sophia Smith Collection. I’m trying to build a more faithful, complete edition of her poems, and am so very excited that the New York Review is going to publish it, as part of their NYRB Poets series in 2017, with a preface by her most generous admirer, John Ashbery.  I hope her rhapsodic insight and her irrepressible authority will soon after enter our idiom— will “admit the bats of wisdom into your head.”

Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?

Yalda Photo 2

The authors I am most excited about reading these days are young women under the age of 18 — specifically, poems by Caroline Sasso, Yovana Milosevic, Lulu Priddy and Malia Maxwell, four writers I have had the privilege of continuing with since we met in a summer creative writing course I teach at Stanford. In fact, they are my motivation for starting YALDA—the Young Artists Language & Devotion Alliance— a tuition-free literary intensive and publishing platform for young women authors ages 12-19. This summer, through a partnership with Ugly Duckling Presse & Poets House, YALDA will publish their chapbooks! They are the writers who inspire me most as a poet and motivate everything I do as a teacher. When I read their new poems, I really feel like the luckiest reader in the world. YALDA is for them. And now, if VIDA friends would like, you can read their beautiful poems too, in these excerpts from their forthcoming chapbooks, at

What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?

In addition to working on YALDA and editing the Collected Poems of Joan Murray, I’m writing poems. I’m trying to write many poems, some of which may become my second book.


Farnoosh Fathi Author PhotoFarnoosh is the author of Great Guns (Canarium Books, 2013), the editor of the forthcoming Collected Poems of Joan Murray (NYRB, 2017) and the founder of YALDA, the Young Artists Language and Devotion Alliance, a summer literary intensive and publishing platform for young women authors ages 12-19. She works for Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies and lives in NYC and the Granny Cloud.