Early this June, I spent a long weekend in Sandpoint, Idaho at Lost Horse Press. The owner, Christine Holbert, runs a one-woman show at this small independent poetry press. She’s carved a niche for herself as a publisher of socially conscious, politically-minded American poetry. She’s a leader in literary programming and publishing pedagogy in the northwest. In addition to all this, she also has Ukrainian heritage. Both of her parents immigrated to the U.S. after meeting in a German labor camp during WWII. Christine’s mother, Marta, a true babusya in the middle of northern Idaho, lives with her at the age of 91. Christine and I have partnered together to produce a series of contemporary Ukrainian poetry in translation. We will print these volumes in dual-language editions with the aim of promoting Ukrainian language and literature and appealing to lovers of poetry and students of language, literature, and translation.
The first book in this series will be my translations of Iryna Starovoyt, a poet and scholar who lives in Lviv. I first met Iryna when I was in Ukraine on a Fulbright fellowship. I reached out to her to discuss her scholarship and ended up reading, loving, and translating her poetry. This collection, A Field of Foundlings, includes selections from her 2014 book, The Groningen Manuscript, and new poems. A scholar of memory and trauma, Iryna’s poems engage the paradoxes of mythology, tradition, and technology to process histories of the 20th century and engage with the challenges of life in Ukraine today.
While at Lost Horse Press, Christine and I worked on editing the manuscript, tweaking the cover design, and hatching plans for the series as a whole. I was able to learn a lot about the process of publishing and the opportunities and challenges that small presses face today.
Sandpoint is located on the beautiful Lake Pend Orielle, the largest lake in Idaho and one of the deepest lakes in the U.S. (deeper than Lake Michigan but not Lake Superior). Sandpoint is also situated between several mountain ranges. With such natural beauty and wonderful weather, Christine and I couldn’t help but take breaks from pondering (tearing our hair out) over Iryna’s elusive verse to take long drives along the Clark Fork River and gravelly country roads. At one point we even drove past Hope (a small town on the northeast side of the lake). As a native Idahoan growing up in Boise, it was my first experience in northern Idaho. I never would have guessed that business from my life as a Slavicist would be the first to bring me there.