Posts by K.T. Billey

Indigenous Languages, Migration, and Multilingualism in Fall 2016 Canadian Poetry Special Feature

A country that takes pride in a mosaic model of multiculturalism becomes home to an abundance of languages

In “Verisimilitude,” the Fall 2016 issue of Asymptote, Assistant Editor K.T. Billey edited a stellar special feature on Canadian Poetry. Reaching far beyond the exchange between French and English, this section presents a diverse group of authors and translators that reflects a multitude of cultural and historical intersections and conflicts. Now, Billey situates and introduces the poets and translators. Delve into the special feature here.

Global readers likely are aware of Canada’s official French/English bilingualism. What the literary world may not know about—and what Asymptote is delighted to spotlight in our Fall 2016 issue—is the range of Aboriginal and First Nations voices that are fundamental to Canada’s evolving identity. The Special Feature on Canadian Poetry introduces readers to three of the approximately sixty distinct Indigenous languages spoken in Canada.

Multilingual poems by acclaimed poet Duncan Mercredi are a crystalline example of the verisimilarity that unites the Fall issue. Duncan’s brother Joe translated the English portions of Duncan’s poems into their native Cree, a language whose dialects nearly span the entire North American continent. Joe’s line-by-line translations became, and are recognized as, part of the poems rather than separate works. The poems are unified though their dual-linguistic nature, exacerbating and expressing the ambivalence of a First Nations poet writing in English.


What’s New in Translation? July 2016

This month's hottest titles—in translation.



The Blue Blood by Oddný Eir, tr. Philip Roughton, Amazon’s Day OneReview: K.T. Billey, Assistant Editor

The Blue Blood seems simple: a woman wants to have baby. Motherhood has always been “in her cards.” She has found a partner who is game, and they love each other. They try everything, including multiple artificial inseminations from donors selected for their blue eyes—hoping the baby will approximate the father. Disappointment and hope begin to frame the narrator’s consuming obsession: finding someone who can help with ‘their problem.’ Her search for a donor expands into the world, as heartbreak and determination test the limits of her relationship. The reader is privy to the narrator’s pseudo-diary “As if recounting a clever story gives my life purpose…”

In a series of titled vignettes, The Blue Blood does more than chronicle the toll of dreams and bodily realities on our relationships. Blue is everywhere—signs, names, auras, eyes, oceans—a mystic slice reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, revolving around fertility and the windows to the soul. The reader experiences the writer’s symbology and suffers along with the woman struggling to read into and ignore them. We feel the weight of their accumulation, the damaging pressure. Desire and action are not enough. When is trying trying too hard? The nature of coincidence gets tangled with intimacy, confronting us with the what we cannot know, will, or hope into being. Of course the couple’s vacation to Argentina finds them in a mountain village with a Nazi past and many blue eyed specimens. Of course they cannot neuter the dog. READ MORE…

How Asymptote Can Teach You

Teachers of literature, culture and writing: rejoice! Asymptote will soon offer free lesson plans

“If there were any journal that should have an educational branch, Asymptote would be it.”

So said a fellow poet, teacher, editor and friend, when I mentioned that we at Asymptote are launching an online bank of teaching plans and materials. For anyone to use, for free.

Why Asymptote? Because of its quality, depth, and range. As a truly global literary journal—we’ve featured work from 95 countries and 67 languages, at last count—that also publishes writing of many genres, Asymptote is already a veritable goldmine for teachers of literature. World literature (not to mention translation, creative writing, composition, cultural studies, and multimedia). Online, at no cost, students and teachers can read (and often listen) to both the original work and the translation, then explore links about the writer/translator(s) and their work.

Now, it’s even easier. Members of the Asymptote educational team (themselves teachers and professors) have compiled themed ‘units,’ complete with readings and assignments. Designed with both high school and post-secondary students in mind, these resources can easily be adapted to the needs of each classroom and instructor. Writing prompts, discussion questions, and small group activities are meant to stimulate discussion and debate by comparing and contrasting readings, questioning their place in global contexts, and recognizing the role of language and translation throughout.