ALTA Fellow: Joshua Daniel Edwin

Joshua Daniel Edwin was born into a family of incurable book-lovers in Baltimore, MD. Upon arriving at Emory University, where he attended college, he was delighted to discover an entire program devoted to the study and practice of creative writing. After graduating with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, he taught for a year in an Atlanta high school that served learning-disabled students. He then moved to Seoul, South Korea and took on a very different instructional challenge: teaching English as a Second Language to elementary-school children. It was in Korea that Joshua learned to swim (or at least tread water) in a sea of truly unfamiliar language. Though he did learn some Korean, he was often forced to communicate using garbled, incomplete vocabulary, or to content himself with enjoying the sound of spoken language. A year living in another linguistic register made him more attentive to language as a fabric of life—to the ways people can make do with imperfect, incomplete, or minimal language (or translation), to the joys that different languages afford their speakers, and to the subtle ways in which every language, as the medium for its speakers’ thoughts, can affect those thoughts and their communication.

After returning to the United States, Joshua moved to New York City determined to make literary art from English—and from its intersections with another language. He took a job at a non-profit hospital, landed an apartment in Brooklyn, and set to work. After writing poems and working with German language and translation for several years in relative isolation, Joshua enrolled in the MFA program at Columbia University, where he studied poetry and literary translation. He was fortunate to work with wonderful teachers in these subjects, and was also fortunate to find himself selected for a pilot student exchange program in literary translation. This program introduced him to Dagmara Kraus, the poet whose work he now translates. Ms. Kraus’s first collection, kummerang, was published by KOOKBOOKS Berlin this spring. The poems are linguistically daring, formally adventurous, and intensely musical. They make frequent and bold use of neologisms, and many are composed using strategies such as anagram and sound-based writing. While some are terse, even minimalist, many use excess as a method, exploring the German language’s limits in the realms of rhyme, alliteration, and suggestion by sound. The intensity and complexity of the poems are balanced by a sense of playful exploration and occasional moments of pure lyric beauty. Engaging with the linguistic precision, sonic superabundance, and formal rigors of Ms. Kraus’ work continues to be an exciting and fulfilling challenge, and one that allows Joshua to expand his own poetic practice through investigation of the methods Ms. Kraus uses to such wonderful effect.

Joshua currently works as a teaching fellow at Columbia University. His poems have appeared in The Adirondack Review, Avatar Review, and Feathertale. His translations of Dagmara Kraus’ poetry have appeared (or are forthcoming) with Argos Books, Asymptote, no man’s land and Anomalous Press and were awarded a 2012 PEN Translation Fund grant. He is a member of the editorial board for the magazine Circumference: Poetry in Translation, available online at circumferencemag.org.

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