Thursday, December 31, 2009

Multimedia Poetry Call for Submissions

As part of my ongoing interest in film and poetry (and multimedia poetry in general) I am collecting calls for submissions of journals, prizes, festivals, etc. Here is another in the expanding series of multimedia poetry calls:

The Missouri Review's Audio & Video Contest 2009

Our deadline has been extended to January 17th! Submit your entry in Audio/Voice-Only Lit or Video Documentary. Winners receive a total of $4,500 in prizes. First prize in each category receives $1,500, second prize $500. Five entries from both categories will be selected for a $100 Editor's Prize. All entrants receive a 1-year subscription to The Missouri Review’s Print or Digital Edition. Entries in both categories will be considered for publication in The Missouri Review or on our website. The winning video will be screened at the 2010 True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO.

Category Guidelines:
Audio/Voice-Only Literature
If you have a short story, a piece of creative nonfiction, narrative essay or poetry that you think worthy of recording, enter this category. All literary genres are considered. Pieces in this category can be solely author-read or contain other tracks of sound, voice and/or recorded interviews. Entries are judged on literary merit, technical proficiency and, most importantly, how the author uses audio media to futher the literary strength of his or her piece. Note: Poets may enter one or more poems as a single entry as long as the total recorded time does not exceed the 10-minute limit. We encourage writers and producers to make innovative use of recording technology as a means of furthering their literary craft.
Time: 10 minutes or less.
First Prize: $1,500
Second prize: $500

Video Documentary Short
This broad category includes everything from a filmed scene that stands on its own to a videographed 10-minute documentary play, interview or nonfiction narrative. In addition to short documentaries on any subject or historic period, interviews of artists and artist presentations are welcome, as well topics of interest to a general literary audience. Entries will be judged on strength of the script and subject, ability to meet its objective (stated or unstated i.e., a comedic short that’s funny, or an author interview that is informative, fresh and insightful), technical facility including sound and lighting, reporting, presenting and/or acting.
Time: 10 minutes or less.
First Prize: $1,500
Second Prize: $500

All submissions must include a completed entry form for each entry, a copy of the entry on a CD or video DVD, a label with writer/ producer, title and length; a brief program synopsis (short writer/producer bio optional; and $24 entry fee. Send entries to:

The Missouri Review Audio & Video Competition
357 McReynolds Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
For More Information, visit our webpage at:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Literary Translation as Peripheral

So the theme of this year's MLA is translation, and it's going to be an embarrassment of riches for those of us who are both interested in the academy and in translation. The current president picked the theme because she is concerned with the place translation and translation studies have held in the academy (or rather, the places in which they are elided, I might say). And thank goodness someone is.

But it concerns me still that a behemoth like MLA might not be able to help but marginalize the work of literary translation and literary translation studies (from here on out, I'm going to just assume the 'literary). I differentiate between the two because I think it's in part this duality that makes translation a difficult subject to broach in the over-compartmentalized and departmentalized university system. Translation is, among other things, about half creative writing and half critical theory. So Translation Studies tends to get the theory - and that includes of course a range of other multi-disciplinary concerns outside of straight "translation theory" or even practitioner theory, including literary theory, linguistics, philosophy, the broad range of cultural studies and more narrowly cultural sociology, history, economics, etc. And Creative Writing, if they have the resources for it, can include the translation practice and the compositional creative elements. So where does that leave Translation? Split and scattered across the academy.

For example, where to people go to study or teach translation? There are very few departments, most translation studies programs are incorporated into other, larger departments like Comparative Literature, English or the relevant area studies program. Job listings for universities that support or are developing translation programs tend to require training or interest in translation as secondary to a primary "authorized" academic interest, again within one of those departments. In this sense, translation is always a subsidiary peripheral activity. It is secondary to the 'real' qualifications and the 'real' work of the department. Supplementary.

Those programs that exist explicitly for the study of translation tend to be broad programs that address the practical issues of interpretation, language acquisition, technical and business translation and perhaps, but briefly, literary translation. Literary translation is not a practical career, generally speaking, so these more technical programs rightly don't devote the same amount of attention to its practice and study.

And maybe this is the root of some of the difficulty. Literary translators into English very, very rarely make a living as a literary translator. Those that I know either teach (again, in another subject with some potential for crossover), or are freelance non-literary translators. Or like me, came from publishing. So when a field of cultural production, to steal a sociological framework, is not even undervalued but literally unvalued as an economic practice, what incentive is there for it's continued practice or study?

It seems similar, though I'm not familiar enough with the history, to the problem that creative writing faced in the middle of the last century. The solution then was the establishment of the workshop format, relying on the Universities to sponsor and support the creative activities that were being undertaken. And really, this is not such a new model. The patronage model has been in place for centuries, but only recently has it been institutionalized rather than individual patronages.

Of course, even if the workshop system was the solution, and I'm not sure that it is, it doesn't resolve that creative/critical divide that literary translation so simply ignores. Doing both is the obvious move, and some academics do, but eventually, it seems, by sacrificing the primacy of one for the other. And the one that is sacrificed is inevitably the undervalued practice of translation. Academics are happy to have translated texts to study, to teach, and to reference. But there is no system of reward that compensates for the work it takes to produce those texts, much less one to train qualified translators to become the producers of those texts. Those academics that attempt to include these elements when they can are often unable to.

All of this has been said before, more thoroughly I'm sure. I think, though, that until the discourse is developed into a valued and positive gain-driven vocabulary for literary translation, there is going to be no real change in how translation is incorporated as secondary (tercery, or at all) to the established disciplines of academic study and teaching.


Not that I really know anything about meta-poetics, but I've been finding similarities in my reading and translating habits of late that lead me to suspect it might be something I'm interested in thinking more about. For example, the titles of some books I've been reading and translating recently are Armando Roa Vial's El apocalipsis de las palabras [The Apocalypse of Words], La dicha de enmudecer [Joyful Falling Silent - which I'm not totally satisfied with yet, because "dicha" sounds so much like "dicho" from the verb "decir" which means "to say" and that's just lost in it's literal rendering as "joyful"] and Efráin Barquero's El poema en el poema [The Poem in the Poem]. Poems from the first book are titled things like "De la palabra en la palabra" [On the Word in the Word] and "De la palabra recordar" [On the Word Remember].

It's not quite as simple as that, anyway. There's an inter-literary bent to Roa Vial that keeps me spinning - half the book is a response to Browning's Sordello, the other half invokes poets like Joseph Borowski and Victor Holan. It's rather staggering, really, to think about all this poetry talking between all these languages.

And maybe that's the relationship between what I'm thinking might fall under the category of meta (but not in a post-modern sort of way, or maybe in a meta-post-modern sort of way). Maybe the difference is that here the meta is not narrative but poetic. Maybe poetry has always contained the possibility of meta in a less self conscious way than narrative. Language in poetry is more expansive in some ways - the words take on their own shadows and slip outside of the regular usage. In my mind this is what is meant when someone praises a prose writer as being "poetic" - the expansion of the possibility of language.

In these poems the language is expansive and slippery, sonorous and silent. It's conscious but not self-conscious. Intentional without too much intent. That is the meta that fascinates me.

There's also a post in here - but not the post of post-modern. The word post itself attracts's temporal duality at once before and after the word it modifies (as a prefix it literally and semantically comes before the word, but as a referent it signs an afterward). Now that I'm thinking of the word, I notice the orange button at the bottom of the screen telling me to "publish post" which is another interesting usage of the word. I'll have to come back to post.

It just seems like language becomes slippery in these works - a slipping that invites you to consider that none of this language means anything without all other possible language and as readers limited by mortality and capacity we are unable to access those possibilities. At the same time, poets, translators, writers of these words are equally isolated from the expansive potential of their words, which puts language into a very threatening role. It can mock you, disparage you, cheat you, betray you just as easily as it can open up for you the spaces between meaning.

But really, I should be researching and not reflecting on my strange and randomly consistent reading habits.