We hope you’ll join us on April 11 and the second Tuesday of each month
12:30 to 1:30 pm (doors open at 12:00)
111 Minna Gallery
Minna Street at 2nd Street (two blocks south of Market)
Downtown San Francisco
Spring 2006 Schedule
April 11: Writers from Europe and Latin America
Pulitzer Prize-winner and translator Galway Kinnell
Galway Kinnell has won almost every honor that can be bestowed on an
American poet, from the Pulitzer Prize to the National Book Award. He is
renowned for spellbinding readings. Kinnell has translated some of the
greatest modern poets, including Lorca, Neruda, and Rilke.
I’m really digging Salomé Ureña de Henríquez, and though this is a rough draft of about the first third of a long poem, I thought I’d share it with you. When I come to a more final version I’ll post the whole thing. My translation is very rough. I’d like to polish it up to reflect Ureña’s rhythmic invocations, which are very beautiful in Spanish! Very fancy-languaged and high-toned. This poem is like Krishna’s call to action when he’s talking to Arjuna… a little bit… I remember someone, maybe my friend Humberto, telling me I’d like Urena’s work a nd now I see why. She praises tumult, destruction, and hubris! Cool.
Urena (1850-1897) was a fiercely political writer and a feminist.
In defense of Society (1)
Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. (Isaiah 62:10)
Creator spirit, fertile genius
you who with inexhaustible activity widen the making
of miracles from your sublime power,
you who perennially shine
in your good works, you who grasp
regions without end in your thoughts
and you who, with your love, extend from world to world
the laws of eternal movement:
Can it be be that the ultimate reward
offered by your august hand
would be condemnation to the repose of nothingness?
Would you have us be lethargic
before your show of active power,
indolent idleness spent in
admiring you – oh Lord – to pass one’s life?
No: wake up, all you who from pleasant fields
in the flowery cushions
only hope for a serene spirit
for hours of peace in ignorant shade.
Rise up, all you who follow
the current of agreeable fashion,
be anathema to the popular uproar,
let out a shout, break the dreams of the most happy.
It’s not pride – all you who raise up to heaven
a grand pyramid
and who exalt yourselves, aspiring to infinite flight:
it’s the immortal spark, that huge and powerful
immense great work,
and in constant travail and internal labor
you create, so that man in his delirium will follow
something of greatness, to stand forever.
Announcing the first Carnival of Blog Translation! Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 2006!
On the day of the Carnival, a participant translates one post by another blogger, and posts it on her own blog with a link to the original. She would need to email me, or post in the comments right here, and I’ll compile one big post on the day of the Carnival with links to all the participants.
You can translate any blog entry that was posted in the month of February 2006. It can be your own blog entry, if you like.
From participants I need:
name of your blog
your blog URL
post title in target language
name of blog you’re translating
name of person you’re translating
the post title in the source language
You should get permission from the person you’re translating to post your translation of their work. I would also suggest that you might introduce your translation for the target-language audience, and provide some context if you can.
A Blog Carnival is sort of like a travelling signpost that points to a bunch of magazine articles. It is a post that contains links to other posts written especially on a particular theme. I’ll host it this month, and next month will hand it off to another host. The content will not appear here; only links to that content!
If you’re looking for a blog in a particular language, try searching on Technorati, a useful blog search engine.
*** Rebecca Mckay points out that the “Translation Carnival” is a graduate student conference happening at University of Iowa in April. Here’s some information on the U. of Iowa Translation Carnival; it sounds like a great event!
At the same time I am also Beverly the Blog Chick who dabbles in being international, entrepreneurial and pedagogic and who knows how to get round all the rules just like any other Chica Esperta. It’s the Chica Esperta who does and who makes things happen.
So far I’ve not been very adept either at keeping the rules, nor at getting round them. But organising my identity between Duh-sent and Chica Esperta Blog Chick is proving to be an empowering experience.
I love that, what she says about organizing her identity. It IS empowering. That’s just what I’ve been trying to do. And it’s also what Doris Lessing was writing about in The Golden Notebook, and Joanna Russ in The Female Man. We end up with “different selves” because of our multiple roles as women, and maybe because of the pressures of … well, a certain impossibility of integration, or suspicion that integration of our selves would mean the erasure of part of the self that is loved and valued.
As I continue doing huge amounts of poking-around and researching and blog-reading and note-taking, for the new BlogHer site — I’m writing about Latin American women’s blogs — I keep noticing women popping up in multiple identities, newly linked in the last year or so, just like me and my web presence… Gabby of La lesbiana argentina, hooking herself up with her other self at Pont des Arts; Dr. Kleine with a wild and woolly blog at En nombre del BLOG and then her polished essays at Olganza; Iria Puyosa with Rulemanes and Reste@dos. There’s so many more, but those are the ones I’ve read the most of.
It seems to happen as a fragmentation over time and then a re-linking or coming-out (or outing) process.
I wonder if it will become more normal to have the ability to dig into the personal lives and personal blogs of people who have professional status in nearly any field? You don’t necessarily want to know about your dentist’s sex life, but you might like to know about their opinions and experiences as a dentist. You might want to only know their professional front. But… if we consider the possibility that we are not bigoted, and people have a lot of personal freedom, and we assume as human beings that everyone around us has a rich, strange interior life, why NOT have their personal voice, their intimate thoughts they’d like to reveal on a friendly level, why NOT have them be knowable. That voluntary openness, and deliberate fragmentation and organization, is very powerful. Of course it’s not always comfortable.
I enjoyed being in Montreal, surrounded by people speaking French. It was good to be in another country.
I could understand a few words and the gist of a sentence, but only after a 10-second time delay where I tried to spell words in my head. I can stumble through a French newspaper article, or follow a poem along with its translation into Spanish or English, but the same words spoken aloud – they often don’t compute!
My own voice sounded harsh and unlovely in my ears, flat and strident, after a day or so listening to French and Spanish. It was embarrassing evidence that I am an uncouth U.S. American. I might as well have been saying “Gee! Gosh! I guess so! W’all, I’ll be!” and slapping my knee while twiddling a strand of hay between my teeth, right off the set of “Hee Haw”. We have a lot of reasons right now to be embarrassed to be USians. Suddenly I could not escape being identified with a category I find distasteful… any personal or subcultural identities I have were subsumed into national identity, and into stereotype.
On the street and on the Metro I played guessing games – who was going to speak French? Was it possible to tell by how people dressed? I think there were correlations, but I didn’t have enough experience to guess right.
Strangers generally spoke to me in French, and I learned to say “bon jour” and “bon soir” but then there’d have to be a switch to English or shrugging. I wondered if people were reading me as French-speaking, or if it is standard in the Downtown and Village Gai areas to start off with French either because of the population there or for political reasons. Here, if someone speaks Spanish to me, it is either because they don’t speak English or because they have “read” my race incorrectly.
In the Metro I overheard a tour guide – in English – explaining to a group that the west side of one of the islands, the English-speaking side, just seceded from Montreal and is now its own city.
My favorite readings from ALTA were translations of poems by Julio Martínez Mesanza and Luis Cernuda. Readers were often grouped by language or by country; I made an effort to go to the Spanish-language readings, especially if they were heavy on poetry and light on fiction.
Don Bogen translated Martínez Mesanza’s decasyllabic lines into blank verse, into deftly rolling yet dense & compact lines that lent dignity to the work. Listening with concentration and focus is difficult. Even if I achieve it, the words slip away from me and I’m left with only impressions. I need to see the poems on the page. Unfortunately I lost my notebook where I jotted down some of Bogen’s lines, but the originals are here:
His poems spoke of war: trenches, artillery, castles. knights, tapestries, goniometers; the language of war, of power and chaos, seemed doubly rooted in history and fantasy, catapulting the poem’s metaphors into philosophical musings applicable to anyone’s struggle in life.
I thought of the function of war, of battle, in poetry. Consider the symbolic and narrative value of combat in comic books or superhero stories. The battle is charged with meaning; the “action sequence” in a spy movie, in a western, when Wolverine fights his womanly arch-enemy and her razor claws, when Chow Yun-Fat and the gangster spray an endless hail of bullets around the church and he crawls blindly past his blind lover… Consider Arjuna’s struggle, his moment of choice and judgement before the Battle of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata. Combat, ultimately, is about that razor edge of consciousness, about decision using all possible information and experience.
Es poder una torre sobre rocas had a powerful impact. Maybe because I had just been working on a long poem about towers, or The Tower, what we think “tower” means; fictional towers of all kinds, tarot cards, the tower of babel, the Two Towers; and the tower’s antidote, the rhizome. Something about the ephemeral quality of hearing, and my own bad memory, makes poetry hook unexpectedly into my own thought trains; on some level, I stop listening, I phase in and out of focus on the heard poem. This imperfection of understanding is productive. Later there is time enough to read the poem on the page and grasp it fully.
In fact, I don’t like a poem that is simple enough to grasp fully on one hearing. How dull, how disappointing, how very like a sound bite! For example, the poem by the Bulgarian poet, who was certainly a nice guy and a sensitive poet, and perhaps a translator himself. But the very poem that listeners in two audiences sighed over, in appreciation and perhaps in relief that it could be understood, I found to be one of the worst I heard all weekend. It was quite short, and had something like this: “God is a child/making sand castles/ and doesn’t understand/that he can control the waves…” I am a fan of the short poem as a form, but if it’s short, it had better have some good thick ideas jam-packed into it, especially if it’s one image and one metaphor. Songs don’t have to be that simple. A poem you can understand completely in one hearing is poor food for poet’s souls.
I forgot to talk about Cernuda, but I’ll do that in the next post.
After the ALTA conference I’m all fired up about translation. In the next few days I’ll be writing up my notes from the panels, hallway conversations, lunch dates, and bilingual readings.
I bounced around the conference spreading lots of ideas. One thing I love about ALTA is that it’s not just for professional academics. Because it’s so hard to make a living being a literary translator in the U.S., everyone has a day job. There’s courtroom interpreters, surgeons, and high school foriegn-language teachers, heck, elementary school teachers. People’s jobs tend to be in teaching, publishing, editing, or – like me – housewifing. Those mavericks do great work, and they get a lot of respect from the academics, who also tend to be the red-headed stepchildren of their departments; foreign language, Comp Lit, English, Composition, Creative Writing – none of them are quite the right fit and your translation might not be quite respectable, might not count so much towards your tenure. Of course there are execptions, and some people are lucky enough to be in one of the rare universities with a Translation Studies program.
Comparative Literature is the logical home for translators in academia. It’s already cross-disciplinary. It’s theory-heavy right now, and could use a little course correction, a little practical connection with the world. Translation, at least of living languages and authors, maintains a direct connection with literary communities. Take a look at the book Comparative Literature in an Age of Multiculturalism. It’s a collection of short essays on Comp Lit, including a report on the state of the discipline from the 60s, 70s, and one from the 90s. (The 80s one is missing, because the Culture Wars were so intense.) If you look at the drafts of new American Comparative Literature Association essays available here: ACLA drafts that translation is being “noticed” more by Comp Lit. Maybe a shift in the discipline is happening, or should be happening. What does this mean for Comp Lit departments?
Comparative literature students and profs would benefit from learning more translation theory, and from doing translations. Translation theory and literary translators would benefit from thinking of their work as essentially comparative. What does that mean? As far as I understand it, it means keeping many factors in mind at the same time while doing your translation: your own subjectivity, the gaps in your knowledge, the depth or shallowness of your knowledge of other cultures and contexts. Seemingly unrelated areas of knowing can factor into a translation; though you’re translating an Argentinian short story from 1920, your knowledge of Icelandic history or the Tale of Genji, as a comparatist, is going to deepen the work. Putting translation into Comp Lit as a discipline would revitalize Comp Lit, and would acknowledge the way that translation is a creative, critical, literary, and political act.