Dear Emily,

In a recent trip to Northern Chile, subsequent to an archaeologists’ conference at the University of Santiago, I came across a small bookstore outside San Pedro of Atacama—really, in the middle of nowhere—Librería del Desierto —owned and operated by poet Diego Alamo, where in the back of the room on the “poetry shelf” I found a copy of Alexandra Papaditsas and Kent Johnson’s The Miseries of Poetry: Traductions From The Greek. Can you please confirm that the translator of this most rare and exquisite collection of post-Homeric Greek lyric is the same Kent Johnson who edits Dispatches from the Poetry Wars? The possibility was first suggested by a colleague, here at the University of Queensland, who alerted me to your column.

Thank you.


An Aging Australian Archeologist, Ph.D.


Dear Aging Australian Archeologist, Ph.D.,

Indeed, as a Google return confirms (Google is a very handy search engine), on what is generally called the Internet (if it has reached Australia), Kent Johnson is the co-translator, with Alexandra Papaditsas, of The Miseries of Poetry. He is the same difficult person who is the co-editor, with Michael Boughn, of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, yes.

Just kidding about the Internet thing, sorry… I have the 2003 chapbook right here in front of me, a rare copy, with Johnson’s signature, purchased from a book dealer in (you won’t believe this) Australia. The book is briefly prefaced by Slavoj Zizek, followed by a tribute from Johnson to Papaditsas, and introduced, rather bizarrely, by the last, who was reportedly murdered a year before the book appeared. Readers can view these prefatory texts and most of the book’s “traductions” here, and I highly recommend doing so, for various reasons, none of which I feel the need to specify: “Imitation, Traduction, Fiction, Response.”

As you have apparently already seen, the print version opens with a total of 45 blurbs (they take up nearly half the space of the edition), only two of which are apparently fabricated.

There is a mention somewhere in the book about the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the singular, ongoing performance/Believe It or Not space curated by David Wilson in Los Angeles, California (I say California, because there is a Los Angeles, Chile, actually, where Roberto Bolaño spent part of his youth). And this is strange, because I can think of nothing more Museum of Jurassic Technology-like than this literary/poetry bookstore smack in the middle of the most parched and desolate desert on the planet, the Atacama. I am so inspired by it, in fact, that I want to donate my copy of The Miseries of Poetry to this bookstore in the middle of nowhere, along with my first-edition copy of Pale Fire, signed by Nabokov himself.

It is the least I can do. I would be honored to contribute in this way to such a remarkably existing poetic fact as Diego Alamo’s impossible bookstore. (I wonder if Andrés Ajens, Contributing Editor in Chile to Dispatches, knows of it.) Much as I like the chapbook you ask about, I find this Librería del Desierto, as a place, space, and event, to be a much more amazing and moving poetic achievement. Do you have a postal address, assuming mail is delivered in the middle of the Atacama desert?

Thank you,

—Emily Post-Avant