Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Translation: Presentation and Workshop Samples


Lyric Poetry, Translation, and the Voice of the Feminine

Jeannine Diddle Uzzi

Modern notions of subjectivity, gender, and voice have their roots in ancient literary genres, but for those with no training in ancient language these roots can be difficult to trace.  This class addresses the art of translation, not only the translation of words and ideas from one language to another but the translation of what Walter Benjamin would call the intentio of a text.  Students will compare multiple translations of a limited number of Greek and Latin poems in order to approach the intentiones of the poems in their original languages.  In addition, this class employs the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan to inform a modern reading of Catullus’ approach to subjectivity, gender, and voice. 

Translation: The Art of Writing/Reading

Eléna Rivera

Translation is a manifold art, one as bountiful and copious for the reader as for the writer. In this class we will begin to engage with translation as a method of inquiry and study. We will discuss how translation teaches us the subtleties of close reading; how it sheds light on other languages, places and people; and how it expands our range as writers. Some of the questions that we will touch on in this seminar are: How can translation help us better understand our own linguistic reaches — our interpretive powers and expressions? How do other languages and cultures help us to understand our own, as well as theirs? What do we learn in the process? In a broader sense, how do we end up “translating” our own stories, poems, dialogues and ideas? 

Translation allows us to widen our perspectives, as writers and readers of a much larger universe and world. Come prepared to participate in an engaging in-class discussion, as well as taking part in some hands-on exploratory exercises. The aim will be, through different methods and analysis, to understand the richness that translation offers, and to understand the ways in which we translate experience into language. The workshop is open to poets and prose writers alike. Knowledge of a foreign language is not necessary.

Crimes of Passion— Murder on the Translation Express

Sholeh Wolpé

Poetry is distinguished from prose by the language’s musicality and by its metaphoric life force. A translator of poetry who fails to respect this fact can become the unwitting destroyer of poems.

In this presentation, we will discuss the case for poetry as an experience, and the necessity for it to remain so in any language—for it to preserve, in Robert Lowell’s words, “the fire and the finish of the original.”

We will explore portions of a translation of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself into Persian, a language very different from English both dynamically and linguistically, in order to discuss these important questions: Should a translator preserve the original state of his or her own language? Or is it preferable to allow the target language to be profoundly influenced, expanded and deepened by the foreign tongue? Is a translator ethically bound to make the translation only as good as the original? What about a brilliant translation that could render a text in such a way as to exceed the original? Would that be unethical?

During the second half of the presentation, participants will collectively engage in translating a musically and contextually complex poem from Persian into English, demonstrating how writers can benefit from translating poetry from any language to enhance their own writing in any genre.