Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New reading series for work in translation

Ugly Duckling Presse announces a new reading series that will include translators. Here's the salient info:

lighghtLighght Reading: A NEW READING SERIES

We're very happy to announce Lighght Reading--a new event series featuring emerging poets and underexposed writing in translation. Lighght Reading will occur bi-monthly at a variety of locations in New York City and beyond; all events will be free and open to the public. Limited-edition broadsides, letterpressed at the UDP studio, will accompany each reading.

The first Lighght Reading will be held at Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop at 7pm on March 21st, with readings from Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich, Brian Droitcour, and David B. Goldstein.

Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich are the translators in this first event--Morse from Russian and Yugoslavian literature and Shayevich--well, not sure, although I'm thinking Russian?

Also, tonight, at Columbia University:

Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky
In conversation with Susan Bernofsky

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
7pm in Dodge Hall, Room 501
Pevear and Volokhonsky are described as "something like a rock star duo in the translation world."

Monday, February 24, 2014

In translation

I'm dragging my feet on returning my about-to-be-overdue copy of In Translation, edited by Susan Bernofsky and Esther Allen, to the library. It's an excellent, wide-ranging selection and what perhaps strikes me most is how carefully--and excellently--the various essays are placed within the selection. As someone often, or perhaps always, challenged by arrangement, I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness and force of the sequencing. It's not a book to flip randomly through; instead, it should be read beginning to end and perhaps even read again end back to beginning, case made most powerfully in point by Lawrence Venuti's "Translating Jacopone da Todi: Archaic Poetries and Modern Audiences" just preceding Richard Sieburth's "'Ensemble discords': Translating the Music of Sceve's Delie." Venuti's essay is not easy going--written in full academic lingo with all its accumulation, repetition and obtusity, along with a strong dash of grumpiness--but its points on the difficulties (and often impossibilities) of translating archaic poetries illuminate and deepen in forward motion Sieburth's in-depth description/analysis of translating Sceve. While Sieburth's piece alone would still be amazing reading (I'm so grateful he doesn't dumb down his intensely technical, yet deeply felt, read of Sceve--I think I've been waiting for his ideas about Renaissance uses of the caesura for a very long time), it was enriched by the difficult essay preceding. While I didn't quite follow, and was at times actually suspicious, of the respective histories of Skelton, Jacopone and "Rap," perhaps the poignant futility of Venuti's translations prepared me for the dramatic beauty of Sieburth's.

And since you must be asking, "but what is the Renaissance take on the caesura?" here you go:

"This space in between, this respite from pain, this caesura, provides a duration of time--ranging from the shortest of moments to the longest of years--in which the sufferer is promised (erroneously, it turns out) some sort of solace…" (Sieburth, p. 212)

Anyway, I've already renewed the book once, and someone else is waiting for it, but I may have to accumulate the damn fine for a bit. (The NYPL obviously needs to order more than one copy.)

Friday, February 07, 2014

First of many

We held the first session of our workshop last night, with a pretty dynamic discussion ranging over all sorts of ideas. I kept thinking to myself, I need to slow this down so we can spend more time with any one of our discussion points! But we will...

In the meantime, I'd like to provide a couple of translation-related reads:

Translationista, written by Susan Bernofsky, translator of Franz Kafka and Robert Walser, is a very up-to-date and fascinating read about many current translation issues (pay of translators, etc.) She also sometimes lists translation events in NYC.

Pierre Joris' blog is another terrific read; he and Nicole Peyrafitte will be visiting the class March 20 to talk about North African influences on European poetry, Trobadors and Trobairitz, and other translation projects they are working on (and perhaps even a little music)...

OK, more soon.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I'm teaching a translation workshop at the Poetry Project this spring, which means this blog is active again! I will be documenting what we're doing in class, and picking up this long-discarded thread...

Translation: The Useful Illusion
Details here:

Translation: The “Useful Illusion”—MARCELLA DURAND (10 Sessions)

Thursday, February 6, 2014
7:00 pm
Thursdays 7-9pm: 10 sessions begin February 6th
Ron Padgett referred to his translating Pierre Reverdy’s Prose Poems as a “useful illusion,” which aptly describes how translation is simultaneously an impossible and essential art. While the transfer of a poem from one language to another will never be exact (not in the least!), the process of doing so pries open tongue, ear and head to the diversity of possibilities. This will be a hands-on, nuts-and-bolts workshop where we will fearlessly render poems from one language to another. While fluency in two languages is not required, an interest and/or working knowledge will be appreciated. We will also read translations of and by poets of various eras and areas, and enjoy class visits by working translators.
Marcella Durand has translated poems by Michèle Métail, Charles Baudelaire, Marcel Proust, and others. She is currently working on a book-length alexandrine, titled In This World of 12 Months.
This workshop is part of The Poetry Project’s “Workshop Residency” at Dixon Place and will meet at 161 Chrystie Street New York, NY 10002 – a short walk from the Project. Dixon Place was founded to provide a space for literary and performing artists to create and develop new works in front of a live audience. Our mutual interest in supporting the development of new work/work in progress makes it an ideal partnership!
If you would like to register for this workshop, or any of the other Fall 2013 workshops, click here.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I won't be speaking on translation--instead, I'll be speaking on race and ecopoetics--and there isn't a "translation panel," exactly, but there are lots of inter-language-related events at the upcoming Advancing Feminist Poetics & Activism (ADFEMPO) conference next week. There's a panel centered around Hélène Cixous, 33 years later (has it really been so long?), another on multilingual poetics, yet another on hybridity and Asian American Poetics (including some talk on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's video poems and traditional Japanese zuihitsu). In fact, the entire conference opens with a discussion between "orature" and "literature," which I'm sure will provocatively address the varied and various translinguations between speech and writing.

Anyway, yrs truly will be spouting off Friday morning from 10 to 11:45, and the coordinates are the English Department Lounge, CUNY Grad Center, which is located on 5th Ave. between 34th and 35th streets in Manhattan (don't be thrown by the Bergen St., Brooklyn, address at the bottom of the page--it's a trick!). Hope to see you there. Bring questions!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Global Conversations

Series Editor: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Open Humanities Press is pleased to launch a new multilingual series in philosophy and literature published in conjunction with the University of Michigan Library's Scholarly Publishing Office. Each Global Conversations book will be freely available as an electronic book (open access) and as reasonably priced paperbacks. European languages are often seen as the source of original concepts, blissfully unaware or simply ignoring what is evolving in non-European languages and cultures. This series aims at encouraging dialogue among world cultures and languages, big and small, the dominant and the marginalized, by enabling, through open access publishing, the exchange of intellectual products, literary, philosophical and theoretical, among world languages. To avoid a one-way intellectual traffic, it means publishing works in translation in at least two languages: the source and the target. The series should be open to the possibility of many other translations that arise from the initially published. That way the dialogue becomes a multi-logue or conversation. Thus a work originally published in English and Gujarati in the series may end up being translated into Kiswahili and Maori, and these should become part of the conversation. Most importantly, the series aims at making visible original and outstanding works which may not be otherwise readily and commercially available for reasons of language and market. The series will have literary and theoretical/philosophic streams while being open to other works that may not neatly fall intothe streams.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


At the FACE Festival, I discovered that a poet and an acquaintance of mine, Edouard Levé, had committed suicide. But that’s not all. He had written an entire book toward the act, which he then sent to P.O.L. Editeur just before he hanged himself. I asked the person who told me, but did P.O.L. then publish it? They did. And surrounded the publication with clouds of words that I find so difficult to read—words in which Leve questions the selfishness of his suicide (his wife found him) against the calm that it would bring him. The listing contrasts Suicide with his previous book, Self. Self is an autobiographical survey of sorts, unlinked facts, sentences. And many of these are the negative (or the positive) of what’s in Suicide.

I don’t want to read either book. The excerpts are beautiful, moving, questioning. I still don’t want to read them. I’ve bumped up against the limits of my own definition of “art,” which is apparently life-affirming. I love some conceptualism. I loved Levé’s other projects. He stayed on our couch for a night or two several years ago, during a project for which he was documenting journeys to American cities and towns named after European cities and towns (Rome, Athens, Cairo). We had a few beers and watched a video called “Feathers for Felines,” an incredibly badly filmed how-to for cat owners on how to use toys to relieve the boredom of house cats. We all agreed it was one of the funniest movies we had ever seen. I think he even watched it twice—again after we had gone to bed. He was a nice guy—engaging, intelligent, irreverent. He gave me his book Oeuvres, a list of ideas for projects that he had never carried out. I had been intending to translate it for years (speaking of never carried out). Right now I’m thinking of somewhere to go with this mini-eulogy, this remembrance of Levé. Something that would make some sense to Suicide. Something that makes sense beyond actually reading his last book. Like, was it all the unfulfilled projects, or the idea of art as an unfulfilled project, or the idea of life as an unfulfilled project that got to him? Wanting to complete at least one project? Does this essentially negate the innovative, experimental idea of art/poetry as uncontrollable, unfinishable, uncompletable? Is Suicide an ultimate conservative achievement? Like heaven, where nothing will change once you’re “there”? No transformation beyond the act that was the idea for the book. The book was the endpoint, along with the act. No motion. It was described to me as “froid,” cold.

Suicide is a bit like Rodchenko’s paintings—where they were the end of painting (a statement I make that I firmly don’t believe), it is the end of conceptualism. Maybe. Conceptualism is ephemeral, requires explanation, “clouds of words.” Suicide is definite—does it require explanation? I’ll never get one. Conceptualism is also tired. I’m tired of entering art shows where I’ve got to read the text before looking at the work. Where the artist has to explain everything, like that the rubber bands making up the big ball are rubber bands from Enron’s board rooms and therefore they have some sort of weight that maybe the responsibility for finding is tossed to us, the viewer.

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