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Poet-Translators in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

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Organizer: Teresa Villa-Ignacio

Co-Organizer: Karen Elizabeth Bishop

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This seminar will discuss poetry translated by practicing poets, the uniqueness of poetic translation as a literary genre, and the emergence of the modern poet-translator as a hybrid writing persona worthy of critical study. While scholars, critics, and some poets themselves may consider a poet’s translated work to be secondary to his or her own writing, what happens when we consider poetry writing and translation to be tandem and reciprocal efforts? How do we value and evaluate this parallel poetic craft in our contemporary moment? We seek to explore how translating poetry differs from translating other genres, and what the working poet imports of his or her own craft when translating other poets’ work. How do we read poet-translators’ poetry differently in light of their translations, and how do we read their translations otherwise in light of their poetic work? How might poet-translators’ theories of translation, developed through their own translational practices, inform their poetry and poetics? Further, how might a writer who identifies as a poet-translator contribute to discussions of bilingualism and multilingualism, or to transnational political advocacy? We welcome proposals on poet-translators at work in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, translating to and from all languages, including poet-translators whose translated work has already gained critical attention as well as others whose translations have not yet been widely circulated. While translations by Seamus Heaney, Anne Carson, and John Ashbery, for example, have already garnered critical acclaim in relation to their own poetic oeuvres, what might we also learn from Rosmarie Waldrop, Clayton Eshleman, and W.S. Merwin, whose translations have not yet received the scholarly attention they merit? We aim, in this three-day seminar, to emphasize the increasing visibility of the poet-translator and to open the way for new, global conversations on the rich reciprocity between the writing and translating of poetry.

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