Rude Woods, by Nate Klug
In his Eclogues, Virgil offers the reader poems about responding — listening, picking out, and answering back the pleasures of song. Nate Klug’s Rude Woods is an inspired, modern response — a new translation that blends talkative elegance with lyric intensity. “In a manner that is as successful as it is surprising,” notes W.R. Johnson in his introduction, “Klug has devised a conversational idiom that relies on spare diction and spare syntax, on a pure clarity of sight and sound to give us superb poems that give Virgil’s pure lyricism a genuine ‘answering form.’”
Translation tends to be either a conspicuous aid to comprehension or that other thing: a strangely impure art form that both mimes and contends with an other. At its best it makes you think and not think about the original; it carries you along in a state of belief even as you remind yourself that there is an older text behind the new song. If the translator-poet strays too far from the colloquial the text hardens, seeming too much like another language; if he or she is too modish it seems as though the earlier poet exists solely to promote the work of the later one. Virgil himself was a modeller of the work of others, as we all are to some degree. It’s a delicate balancing act performed well by only the best translators. Nate Klug is of this noble band. ‘He cares about poetry’ and his Virgil has a lightness of touch that only the best can manage. Laurie Duggan
Nate Klug’s Rude Woods renders Virgil in an idiom as honest and appealing as “ripe apples, cooked chestnuts, and cheese.” Ezra Pound’s Propertius comes immediately to mind. These selections evince the same careful attention to the natural rhythms and movement of speech—perfect for a poetic escape into simple pleasures. Yet Klug doesn’t skirt an important lesson of the Eclogues: escape is fleeting. Loss, longing, and exile dog even the shepherds in this idyll. They ease their own troubles and “make the way / less painful, singing and walking, / walking and singing together like this.” Nate Klug confidently reaffirms the abiding comfort of these poems. John Tipton
Nate Klug studied literature at the University of Chicago and theology at Yale. He has published poems in many journals and in a chapbook, Consent (Pressed Wafer). He currently lives and works in Iowa.