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2018 Split This Rock Report #3

KateYoung.JPGAt the Split this Rock Poetry Festival on April 19, 2018, the Dresser attended the panel on "Translators as Activists, Curators, and Cultural Interpreter" with Francisco Aragon, Ilya Kaminsky, Aviya Kushner, Olga Livshin, and panel moderator Katherine Young. The big question posed was--how to support poets who are marginalized in their own culture? Also what about poets who were political prisoners or who had to hide their gender identity. What about poets who are unable to get published within their own country because, for example, they don't meet expectations for who a poet can be, such as a poet whose economic class shuts them out. Other questions raised during the panel were: why are women translated far less than men? Also what do you do with poetry coming from wars no one wants to hear about or acknowledge?


Francisco Aragon provided a handout of three versions of a poem credited to Ruben Dario--Dario's original in Spanish "De invierno," a literal translation "Of Winter" focused on a woman named Caroline (in the Spanish version Carolina), and Aragon's interpretation based on new information that Dario was gay changing Carolina to an unidentified male pronoun he or him.

Olga Livshin had a similar story about the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova who was unable to fully express her gender identity, her bisexuality. While "Annas at the Stove," an interpretative poem written by Livshin and published by the Kenyon Review was not provided in the panel, it speaks to what Livshin said.

Aviya Kushner presented poems from Yudit Shahar, an Israeli woman coming from the economic lower class--she worked as a house cleaner and a seller of vegetables, occupations not meeting Israeli expectations of who writers can be and who would be worthy of paying attention to.

By Yudit Shahar as translated by Aviya Kushner

Fuck poetry fuck
to strip,
to daintify skin
to display in cold light
the pitifulness.

To sell tomatoes
in tony Tel Aviv,
to shine them one by one
in a white shirt
in the light,
to sell to the wealthy--
what do they care for poetry?
What do they care about a tomato,
a rotten one?
Fuck the tomato

Ilya Kaminsky provided much food for thought. He described poems in English that readers declared were better than the original Russian poems. He asked at what point does a reader wake up because the poem is not what you expect, because the poem challenges you.

Katherine Young was passionate about Iya Kiva, a Ukrainian poet writing about the war no one in America is interested in. The online journal Asymptote published this poem April 19 just in time for Kate's reading of it. Here the Dresser offer this portion from A Little Further from Heaven by Iya Kiva as translated from the Russian by Katherine E. Young:

is there hot war in the tap
is there cold war in the tap
how is it that there's absolutely no war
it was promised for after lunch
we saw the announcement with our own eyes
"war will arrive at fourteen hundred hours"

and it's already three hours without war
six hours without war
what if there's no war by the time night falls
we can't do laundry without war
can't make dinner
can't drink tea plain without war

and it's already eight days without war
we smell bad
our wives don't want to lie in bed with us
the children have forgotten to smile and complain
why did we always think we'd never run out of war

let's start, yes, let's start visiting neighbors to borrow war
on the other side of our green park
start fearing to spill war in the road
start considering life without war a temporary hardship

in these parts it's considered unnatural
if war doesn't course through the pipes
into every house
into every throat

The Dresser thinks that any poet would be very fortunate to have with Francisco Aragon, Ilya Kaminsky, Aviya Kushner, Olga Livshin, or Katherine Young as their translation ambassador.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 20, 2018 7:55 AM.

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