Martin Woodside is involved with the mysterious inner workings of Calypso Editions. An accomplished poet in his own right, Martin lived in Romania for a year and since then has been committed to exposing readers to the gritty and powerful writers of that country. He has most recently published Athanor and Other Pohems, a translation of Romanian poet Gellu Naum’s work. We caught up with Martin and asked him to give us just the facts.
WHO are you currently thinking of most?
These days I think about my father a lot. He’s very ill, the kind of ill that makes you think about life and death and other weighty issues—that makes you feel those issues, in fact, rendering other thought almost irrelevant.
WHAT language currently fascinates you?
I remain fascinated by Romanian. I came to the language late in life and have a long way to go before I could be called fluent. Reading Romanian poetry, I remain fascinated by things both technical—such as sentence structure—and more abstract: the nuances of idiom, for instance. Coming to understand this language idiomatically is a cultural experience, and I am fascinated by how much of a culture can live in language.
WHY did you title your books This River Goes Two Ways, Athanor and Other Pohems, and Of Gentle Wolves?
This River Goes Two Ways is a line from a movie, All the Real Girls.
Athanor and Other Pohems: Athanor comes from Gellu Naum himself, a kind of title track, while “pohems” is a nod to Naum’s distinctive poetics.
Of Gentle Wolves is pretty out there. I batted ideas around with Chris Tanasescu, and this title comes from our conversations, a distortion of Mircea Eliade, and the unchartered territory of my mind.
WHERE do you find your inspiration?
It tends to find me, if at all. This has been a big year with big things happening to me, and inspiration is always at my heels in times like this. In other times, I try to be proactive, making myself write, even in fragments, whether I’m inspired or not. I find a lot of inspiration in Calypso, actually. It’s a lively community of writers, and I need that kind of community to thrive.
WHEN do you get your best ideas?
I wish I knew—then I could clear my schedule and wait for them to show up! There’s no rhyme or reason, honestly. I get a lot of ideas when I travel, or when I do anything to shake up routine. Maybe routine is the enemy of ideas.
HOW do you want your writing to change the world?
Do I want it to? My inner cynic is chomping at the bit. I’m going to rein it in, though. If my writing made people more open to foreign things and ideas or more compassionate to other people, that would be nice. I’d like my writing to change the way people listen.