The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare
by Sharmila Cohen and Paul Legault (eds.)
Nightboat / Telephone Books, $17.95 (paper)

The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare, the new anthology from the translation journal Telephone, presents contemporary renderings of the originals. Including references to Occupy Wall Street, tweets in place of Sonnet 85, YouTube-inspired closed captioning, and other recent political and pop-cultural mentions, the poems explore sex, money, the political establishment, the economy, and love. Some poems replicate the traditional sonnet form, while others comprise text-images or comics. Others are homophonic translations or modernized adaptations of the original sonnet in free verse, using plain language to talk about writer’s block, desire, and obsession. Some poems are dramatic adaptations of the original; some are written in text-message orthography; some seem to be what the poet wished he or she could say to Shakespeare during a high school English exam. Still others provide commentary on the process of rewriting a Shakespeare sonnet itself. Regardless of how closely—formally or textually—each new poem draws from the original, these adaptations preserve Shakespeare’s wit and carpe diem vulgarity.Take Harryette Mullen’s hilarious “Dim Lady,” which modernizes Sonnet 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”: “My honeybunch’s peepers are nothing like neon.”