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The Scarlet & Black

Nate Klug talks poetry and translation

Poet Nate Klug spoke to students last Tuesday. Photo by Jun Taek Lee
Poet Nate Klug spoke to students last Tuesday. Photo by Jun Taek Lee
Poet Nate Klug spoke to students last Tuesday. Photo by Jun Taek Lee

Last Tuesday, Feb. 24, poet and translator Nate Klug read a selection from “Rude Woods,” a book-length adaptation of Virgil’s “Eclogues.” Klug also shared pieces from his original work, “Anyone.”

Klug, who was born in Minnesota, grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts before going on to pursue a degree in English from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Yale Divinity School. In the fall of 2013, Klug began serving as a minister in Grinnell, befriending Professor Hai-Dang Phan, English. In introducing Klug, Phan likened their relationship to an unfinished joke—“a professor and minister walk into a bar in Iowa…”—before detailing what he described as “a fellowship I needed, a friendship I didn’t expect.”

Klug’s connection to the larger Grinnell community from his days of being a minister was made clear from the number of people from town present in the gallery.

Klug read a selection of poems from his works, starting with a collection of poems about Iowa.

“It’s a great place to write and to think,” Klug said. “I really liked the College and I liked the feeling of, there’s a kind of modesty here. Everyone’s obviously very smart but people maybe aren’t so ready to show it off and I think that quality is very cool.”

Klug’s translations, which often stray from being strictly faithful to the original, have often been praised for their lyrical clarity.

In between recitations, Klug shared the broad range of influences on his work, from idle observation of the characters in his neighborhood to his collegiate studies of ancient Roman poets.

“The book is made up of 38 individual poems and I fiddled around so much with the timing and the ending,” Klug said. “But the poem that I ended with was about running into my fiancée who became my wife and it’s a poem kind of about love and that was important for me to have that as the ending poem of the book.”

Klug ended the reading with “Time,” a poem written in a form that he invented in which 12 lines are repeated in the 12 lines immediately afterwards in a different order. The repetitive nature of the poem was evocative of the uniquely mysterious place that time holds in the universe.

Ultimately, Phan’s words serve as the best description of Klug’s poems.

“They dare to be nothing but themselves, and anyone—to riff on the title of his forthcoming poetry collection—anyone at all, can stop and listen.”

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