Caravaggio, San Gerolamo Scrivente

Keeping Company

Translators have not often been subjects of painting, and when they have, they are usually the translators of the Bible. The Hebrew scholars of the Septuagint appear in a few,…

Ilya Mashkov, Self-Portrait with Pyotr Konchalovsky 1910

A Minimal Pair

Wacław and I didn’t speak much when we made love, but when we did it was in a language we otherwise never used.  On those rare days when we’d eschew…

Young man and Coca-Cola machine, 1959. By Bruce Davidson

The Gilded Tongue

Like the sons and daughters of landed gentry, we native speakers of English have been born into a world of privilege that we have done nothing to deserve. We are…

Juliette Aristides, Back to Back

Foreign Accents

Simon got his license at the end of our senior year in high school. To celebrate, he and I decided to drive up to Boston to see the Allman Brothers…

Houdini Museum Card

Rope

It was not an ordinary exhibition to begin with. It was not held within the white cube of a gallery or in a crumbling warehouse or deconsecrated church or any…

Max Ernst, Ubu Imperator, 1923

How Do I Sound?

Some people can make a declaration of love sound like whining, and others can turn a passage of history into pornography. This is not all about phrasing and intonation, of…

Native Speakers

In 1966, a year before he landed the role of Captain Kirk in Star Trek, William Shatner played the lead in a film called Incubus. Directed by Leslie Stevens, the…

Mandelstam,_Cukovsky,_Livshiz_&_Annenkov_1914_Karl_Bulla

Poetic Voice

The poets she chose to read that evening had all met violent deaths. One was killed in a duel, another committed suicide, and the third died, emaciated, cold and exhausted,…