‘Poetry in Translation’ event at Enitharmon – 19th January 2018

‘Poetry and Translation’ was a collaborative event between LAHP and Enitharmon publishing house, with the poets David Harsent, Jane Duran, and Martyn Crucefix, and the academics Nina Parish and Emma Wagstaff. Curating the evening was a valuable opportunity for me to work between the academic and creative realms, provoking me to think about how gaps could be bridged, and how the strengths of each used to enhance one another. To do this, I planned a hybrid structure for the event, mixing original translations, prepared especially for the occasion, with a more academic style interrogation of translation choices. I’m very grateful to both Enitharmon and the poets for entrusting me with great flexibility in designing the event.

We began with a translational experiment, in which each poet was asked to translate a Catalan poem, ‘El Contraban’ by Josep Lluis Aguilo. None of the poets speak Catalan, though they were provided with a glossary of literal word definitions. The experiment was aimed at uncovering some of the extra-linguistic personal choices involved in translation, whilst making the event accessible to all, whether mono- or multi-lingual. The exercise brought up many interesting points of debate, from Nina Parish’s choice to preserve some of the ‘foreignness’ of the poem, to David Harsent’s decision to move away from a close translation in order to produce a version that stands up as an independent poem in English, and to Martyn’s observations on the moralising language within which translation is so often framed. These debates continued into the poetry readings and discussions of each writer’s own work, then were again widened out in a final round of discussions and questions to close the evening.

Enitharmon put me in touch with an excitingly varied range of poets and academics, and a major challenge for the evening was integrating these potentially disparate voices into a productive and stimulating panel. On the night, I felt that a lively balance was reached, leaving room both for each poet to discuss the challenges of their specific work, and for rousing debate which showcased the variety of opinions and approaches taken to translation. I would like to thank Enitharmon, LAHP, and all of the poets and academics who participated for all of their support and inspiration; as both an aspiring creative and academic writer myself, this close interaction with leading voices in these fields was a truly wonderful opportunity.

The event took place at:

10 Bury Place
London, WC1A 2JL

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