The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation
“Human words have no main switch. But all those little kidnaps in the dark.”—Anne Carson
In this class we will study multiple translations of famous poems by major world poets such as Shu Ting, Gabriela Mistral, Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Akhmatova, Aimé Césaire, and Paul Celan. The curriculum will be tailored to the backgrounds of students who enroll, and all are welcome.
Alternating between creative writing workshops (to critique and revise our own translations of the poems) and critical discussions, the course will also include presentations on the political and geographical frames that shape each text. For example, our translations of Aimé Césaire will be informed by his scholarship on colonialism. Translating Osip Mandelstam’s “Stalin Epigram” will bring us to Soviet Russia’s forced famine in Ukraine. Discussions of Israel and Palestine will surround our translations of Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch, or of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Informal and dynamic history classes will form the undercurrent of our formal poetry class.
Through poems, essays on translation theory, and our own ongoing experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry—written in Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, French, Hindi, or Russian—underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to poetic translations, assignments will include an oral presentation, an exchange of letters with a classmate, and a short creative essay. This course is cross-listed with COML 3120.