Sunday, September 20, 2009

Call for Papers: Sociological Turn in Translation

It struck me a few months ago while I was looking for a book by Pierre Bourdieu that had come up in a discussion related to poetry and translation that I was deeply interested in sociology. Initially, I thought I was interested in literary theory, but when that turned out to be a whole lot of psycho-deconstruction-analysis (yes, I'm generalizing unfairly here) I determined what I was actually interested in was much more specifically constructed. The theories that I get passionate about are the ones that relate to the world directly - what literature and poetry and translation can do to construct identity (identity politics) in a post-colonial, post-national, globalized context. The power of poetry. The political import of art. Etc.

Where this seems to keep recurring in my reading is in cultural sociology, and so apropos of these revelations in my personal life the internet has again delivered a timely notice to me.

Conference Announcement and Call for Papers
“The Sociological Turn in Translation and Interpreting Studies”
The Fifth Biennial Conference of the
American Translation & Interpreting Studies Association (ATISA)
April 22-24, 2010
New York University (NYU), New York, NY

The American Translation & Interpreting Studies Association invites you to attend their fifth biennial conference, “ATISA V: The Sociological Turn in Translation and Interpreting Studies.” The conference will be held on the campus of New York University in the heart of New York City on April 22-24, 2010.

ATISA encourages, supports, and furthers the study of translation and interpreting studies by disseminating knowledge and research relevant to all areas of language mediation, speci­fically translation and interpreting, regardless of discipline. Translation and interpreting studies here means the study of all forms of communication between languages, including translation, interpreting, localization, bilingual text revision, cross-cultural communication, and the various
specializations, tools, and technologies involved in such activities.

Presentations focusing on the act of communicating between human languages from a wide range of disciplines and methodologies, including translation studies, interpretation studies, applied linguistics, cognitive science, cultural studies, ethnology, sociology, anthropology, education, and other social sciences are welcomed. Presentations must follow the standards of scholarship of their respective disciplines, and they must show the connection of their work to Translation and
Interpreting Studies.

ATISA V promises to be an exciting conference where new ideas are generated, disciplinary boundaries are crossed, and research on all aspects of translation and interpreting, from cognition and social action to teaching and learning, is shared.

Translation and Interpreting scholars are invited to submit 200-300 word proposals for individual papers in Word as an attachment. (Please include your contact information in the body of your e-mail, not in the file. Name your file with the first three letters of your paper title)
Presentations on all aspects of translation and interpreting studies are welcome. Papers will be divided into sections on translation/interpreting theory, research, pedagogy, and technology.
Presentations will be 20 minutes in length, followed by discussion. There will be sessions Friday morning, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon.

The deadline for receipt of proposals is October 15, 2009.

Send Proposals To: Dr. Claudia Angelelli, Chair, ATISA Scientific Committee, at

Information: For more information about the conference, visit the conference registration page at

Questions: E-mail to:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Split This Rock

I've recently become very interested in the interaction of poetry and film. This grew from a translation project of a long, semi-narrative prose-poem which turned out to be using a lot of cinematic language and techniques. As I dug deeper and deeper into the poem, and fell more and more in love with the work, I began to wonder what the fruitful relationship between film and poetry could be. What was the author's inspiration, in 1981 when he was writing this, to turn the language of the poem toward a kind of experimental screenplay.

There's a clear relationship in the primacy of the image. The poem, as Williams and his cohorts would tell you, is all about the image. Film, too, relies on visual perception - a visual literacy if you will that cues us without statement. Sound, also. Someone told me, and I don't have a citation, that the majority of what viewers of media respond to is the sound, not the picture. Likewise, poetry even sitting silent on the page consists of music - the internal music of the word, and of the line, and the fuller music of the poem.

I also want to find a relationship in the non-narrative ability of poetry and film. While they both can, and often quite successfully are, narrative projects, poetry by virtue of its concentration of language and form on the page (not just verse, but short blocks of prose because of the plunge into whiteness that follows each one, use the void, the break of the line to create this possibility) can exist in a momentary eternity. That is, one moment that is comprehensibly infinite and universal. Of course, there is a temporality locked into the reading of the poem - you must read one word, one line at a time, there is no way to instantaneously take in the entirety of the poem in an atemporal experience. Rather its the subject matter that, by breaking the bonds of the temporality of the medium, the printed page, can free itself to express something beyond history, beyond time. In the same way, film, while constrained by the linear succession of images on a screen, can yet break these narrative bonds and express something beyond.

All this to say that today I received a call for submissions for Split This Rock poetry festival, for film and video submissions. They are "looking for artistic, experimental, and challenging film/video interpretations of poetry that explore critical social issues." Which brings me directly to my other serious poetic interest: poetry as an agent of social change and conscience. On their mission statement page they write:
Poets have long played a central role in movements for social change. Today, at a critical juncture in our country’s history, poetry that gives voice to the voiceless, names the unnamable, and speaks directly from the individual and collective conscience is more important than ever. The festival will explore and celebrate the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
It is a reality, and not necessarily to be lamented, that many more people are responsive to visual media than written. Poetry is excellent at appropriating, so why not explore fully the relationship between the two and perhaps infuse again the ability for poetry to be active in the social conscience of the world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Perishable Publishing

It struck me while writing the title for this post that "perishable publishing" would be a great zen-like e-zine name - the ephemeral quality of web publishing speaking for itself....but that's not what I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about that oft-touted phrase for academics (or aspiring academics like me) "publish or perish." I'm thinking about this now particularly as it seems as though there will be some future for the project I spent the last two years working on, negotiating rights for, etc. I did this for the love of the work, but also with the idea that I could share my love of the work with a wider audience. Which requires a publisher.

One of the main topics of conversation in my translation discussions has been on the topic of publishing. While I may not be the most published person out there, I have been on both sides of the game, so to speak; working as an editor for Arrowsmith Press, Zoland Poetry and a number of other wonderful independent presses for many years, and also submitting my work with many rejections and a few acceptances. I've now had original and translated work published and let me tell you, it's much much harder to do with translated work.

First, the rights. ALTA and PEN both have wonderful publications, more like how-to guides, on things like "breaking into print," developing a contract, "promoting your translation," etc. The ground rules are laid out and free to download for anyone who might be interested. But there are some things gained by experience that I have been thinking about, which might be useful for those just beginning to think about publishing.

1. It helps to know the editors. Really, this isn't nearly as nepotistic as it sounds. You absolutely don't need to be friends with editors to get published. But it does help to know about the editors of the places you're submitting. It's kind of like dating - you want to find someone who is a good match. It doesn't make sense to submit translations of Chinese fiction to an editor that is primarily interested in Latin American poetry. It likewise doesn't make sense to submit lyrical poetry to a publisher who is primarily interested in political art. A good way to come up with a list of potential places to submit is to make a list of the journals and presses that publish the books you like to read. Look on your bookshelf for publishers - most likely they will share your tastes.

2. It does actually help to know the editors, or someone else who knows them, or someone who works somewhere in publishing. Literary publishing is a small world, literary translation publishing even moreso. If you're fortunate enough to be in an area where there are events centered around literary translation (readings, for example, or visiting writer programs) go to the events. Talk to people there. It's like networking, only these people are actually interested in the same things you are, and are probably doing fantastic work of their own that you will also be interested in. And you may get a lead - someone who is interested specifically in what you're doing, or knows of someone who is. If you're really lucky, you might also get an introduction, but at the very least you'll make friends with similar interests and learn about avenues you might not have already considered.

3. Research is key. Reading widely could be considered a pre-requisite for work as a literary translator. A general love of world literature predicates all work as a translator, and so there are likely a variety of world literatures represented on your bookshelf. The same approach for finding a new book could be used for finding a potential publisher. Go to a bookstore or library and look at the literary journals for those who publish work in translation. Or look at publishers backlists online. ALTA has a list of publishers (and journals) that publish works in translation, but because of the changing landscape of publishing it can't be comprehensive. Small Press Distribution, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and Poets & Writers all have lists of presses (though you can't search for translation specifically) that are worth browsing through.

4. Submit. Actually do it - it's good practice, and helps develop a thick skin. And you might be accepted, or get a thorough, and much coveted, personal rejection that can help you improve your work. The way I do it is aim high: start with the three or four places I would most love to be published, and then each time I get rejected I submit to three or four more. Some pieces are accepted right away, and some have been accepted after 15 or more submissions. Some haven't been accepted at all. But the practice of writing query and cover letters alone is worthwhile. And a great place to keep track of all of these submissions (because the worst thing to do is submit the same piece to the same journal by accident) is Duotrope.

Well, there are many more concerns in submitting translations for publication than original work. I may return to the subject, but I think for now I must return to Derrida, Des tours de babel, and thinking about the loftier aspects of translation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The End of the Summer

Well, it's official - school has started, and the summer is ending. Here in Iowa, where I've found myself immersed in a world of literature, art and translation, it's still sweltering out but the fall is on my mind. ALTA is coming up in November, and I'll be discussing the future of ALTA from my perspective.

It also means the newsletter is coming together, and I'm constantly humbled by the wealth of activity and interest in literary translation that is out there.

The summer was wonderful - two whole months, uninterrupted, with my husband before the inevitable distance took its place. But it is nice to be thinking again about my work, the work I hope to do, the work I am doing. Iowa is a good place for this.