Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blurring Boundaries: A Conversation on the Art of Translation

Last night, I attended the closing event of the Festival of Contemporary Japanese Women Poets, a series of talks and readings presented by belladonna*, Poets House, and the Bowery Poetry Club. The conversation began as an exchange of ideas and questions between Alcalá, Sekiguchi and Swensen and continued with the audience Q&A. I was introduced to Sekiguchi's work on Wednesday but last night she elaborated further on her experiences in and thoughts on self-translation. Swensen, also a well-regarded poet, translated into English Sekiguchi's Japanese to English self-translations and has translated a number of French works, focusing in particular on cross-genres. She currently teaches at the University of Iowa. Her comments addressed the role and influence of translation on a poet's "original writing." ALTA veteran Rosa Alcalá, who teaches in a bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas, El Paso, opened the conversation with an observation on the creative potential of borders and boundaries: "While some boundaries are an invention, others are real. Placing ourselves on those boundaries can be productive." Ultimately, the poets seemed to agree that in writing and translation, one does not necessarily "blur boundaries" but rather acknowledge, embrace and inhabit them as sites of creativity and meaning.

You can read my notes of the discussion on my website (they were far too long to reproduce here!).

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