Contributor Spotlight: Harry Roddy

The translations “Black Goats,” “We Waited,” and “The Fingernail” by Harry Roddy appeared in Issue 16 and can be read here.

Tell us a little about “Black Goats.”

“Black Goats” appears in a book called In Time Spent. Although the entire book is made up of prose poems, I wouldn’t describe them as being exactly narrative. However, each of the three sections of the book has a particular setting. “Black Goats” comes from a part in which the speaker is on a bus tour with fellow tourists in Iran. Thus, when the speaker steps from the bus, it is helpful to know that he is regarding the Iranian countryside. Even given this information, however, the poem is still quite delightfully disorienting.

What was the most difficult part of translating Showghi?

I find Showghi to be an amazingly engaging, but also complex and difficult, poet. However, he’s a very visual poet. The most difficult thing is to be able to see through his eyes, to see what he is seeing and then get the words right. Also, his poems take incredible leaps, and the language is never ordinary. It can be quite difficult to distinguish between when the language is taking a particular leap, and capturing that leap in English, and when the language is more reserved, and then maintaining that particular register.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

I would recommend Judith Vollmer’s The Apollonia Poems, which just came out. These poems are deeply felt and well earned, showing the poet engaged in both the historical and political process, as well as the environs of her beloved Pittsburgh.

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

Thomas Pynchon. Most of his novels have had a profound effect on me; I feel like Gravity’s Rainbow taught me how to think. Plus, how often do you get to have a drink with an international man of mystery?

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I am working on an academic project centering on the German author Hans Henny Jahnn, and I continue to try to find a home for my translated manuscript of Showghi’s In Time Spent. I also continue to seek the elusive first publication of one of my own poems. Alas!

Our thanks to Harry for taking the time to answer a few questions and share his work. Read Roddy’s translations “Black Goats,” “We Waited,” and “The Fingernail” here:



Harry Roddy received his MFA in Poetry and Poetry Translation from Drew University. His translations of German poetry have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, New England Review, No Man’s Land and Sakura Review. He lives in Mobile with his family, where he is Associate Professor of German at the University of South Alabama.