Posts Tagged ‘translation’

In which I show my age

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Last week in my undergraduate creative writing class, my friend David Bartone and I co-taught a “translation day” (in preparation for reading Kassandra and the Wolf this week…). It went like this: we selected two poems from the Center for the Art of Translation‘s Two Lines anthology “Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed,” in this case Andrej Glusgold’s “I Love Berlin” and “Elementary Particles,” translated by Donna Stonecipher.  First we distributed only the original German text.  We translated most of the first poem together as a class, using “gut” translations—no dictionaries, just everyone’s own ideas of what was meant, or should be meant, by such words as “Schlaf” and “Herpes,” etc. (success rate with the second was high).  Then we divided the class into small groups, half of which had dictionaries, half of which didn’t.  The half with dictionaries were to translate the second poem creatively, to make the best and most creative poem; the half without dictionaries were to translate it for accuracy.  At the end everyone could vote on each other’s, just to add a little competition.  All in all, it was an excellent day and really I should be able to offer here some of the great lines people came up with.

But also… One student showed me that on his iPhone he could take a picture of the German poem, and Google could read the text out of the image and translate it for him instantly.  I was agog.  And annoyed.  And (in the cliched mode of fiction writers?) was thinking that what I think of as my best ideas may no longer be a match for the world…


Need some computerized Latin translation?

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Google has added a 58th language to its automatic translation service — Latin! “Latin offers a unique advantage: most of the text that will ever be written in Latin has already been written, and a comparatively large part of it has been translated into other languages,” Google said in a statement.

More here.
Perhaps it’s time for Karapanou in Latin?

Student Translators in Berkeley

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

For those of you in the Bay Area, there’s an exciting translation-related event coming up: On October 10th, you can check out the Poetry Inside Out program as part of Berkeley’s Watershed Poetry Festival. This exciting program allows grade-school students the opportunity to study and translate renowned foreign-language texts, learn about poetic line, and compose their own work. Students will be reading translation-inspired poetry from A Pocketful of Voices / Un Bolsillo de Voces alongside U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, among others. More info here.

Spanish translation from “Blue Has No South”

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

La Comunidad Inconfesable, a Spanish magazine of shorts, is currently featuring a Spanish translation of “The Angel that Brod and Kafka Dreamed Of” from Blue Has No South. Read it in full here.

Russian Poetry in the Valley

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

In addition to being one of the most literature-celebrating places in the nation and the home of Clockroot, the Pioneer Valley is also a mini epicenter of Russian creative activity. Joseph Brodsky taught at Mount Holyoke College for many years, and one occasionally senses the area’s landscape and character emerging in his verse. And we are blessed to have esteemed Russian poet Polina Barskova living and working in the Valley (she teaches Russian literature at Hampshire College), as well as her translator, Cathy Ciepiela (who does the same at Amherst College, and has translated other modern and contemporary poets as well). Examples of both their work can be found in the lauded anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive, 2008), which includes a dizzying array of contemporary poets with the original Russian in a facing translation (a great tool for any student). Works by many other poets and translators included in the anthology can also be sampled in an issue of Jacket Magazine from last year.

According to my very incomplete notes, I’ve had the pleasure to hear a handful of Russian poets read at the Five Colleges (Polina, Sergei Gandlevsky, Ilya Kaminsky, Katia Kapovich, Lev Rubinstein), and Pam just clued me in to Schoen Books in South Deerfield, which hosts a number of readings of poetry in translation, with, it seems, particular attention to Russian modern and contemporary poetry. I wish I would’ve known about Matvei Yankelevich’s reading of Daniil Kharms (Yankelevich is part of the wonderful Ugly Duckling Presse, which has done a lot to bring Russian and Eastern European writing into English). The Valley never ceases to amaze!

It seems to me that a poet, whose voice is perhaps even more influenced by and dependent on the logic and nuances of one’s native language than a prose writer, would have a particularly hard time adjusting to a completely new life and language. But just as Brodsky began to write in English, Polina Barskova has also assimilated her life here into the fabric of her verse, though she still prefers to write in Russian: “I think the poet must consider himself a sponge. I try to absorb the eclectic influences around me — Slavic studies, America, jazz, film, the ocean. It’s most important that everything is absorbed into my work: a sponge doesn’t choose. Around me I have Wallace Stevens and the Argentinean building superintendent, specialists on Khodaseevich, football fans, flea markets and Stravinsky festivals, Carlos Gardel and Petr Leshchenko. All of this must find a place in the only element dependent on me, my verse, and in the element of the Russian language, and if their interpretation is а thick, pungent, living physiological solution—then I can keep going” (my translation from a Russian interview).

At the Kaminsky reading I wrote about, Polina read some of her poems on creative collaboration, which Kaminsky followed with his translations. It was a particularly sweet moment—to see Russian poets forging new relationships, and a real creative discourse, in this country.