Translation as Literature, Literature as Translation

Ottawa - Apr 7, 2015

featuring Marc Charron, Seymour Mayne, Amanda Earl, and MARGENTO. View photos here.


Marc Charron kicked off the event by introducing himself—professor in the School of Translation and Interpretation at uOttawa, translator, Director of TS Graduate Studies (and we can add, since he was too self-effacing to mention it himself, 2014 Faculty of Arts Distinguished Professor of the Year)—and by presenting Asymptote and its major accomplishments over a time span of no more than 4 years, and by dubbing it “currently the best literary translation journal in the world.”  Marc than introduced acclaimed poet, writer, and academic Seymour Mayne, author, editor, and translator of over 50 books, who had recently launched a short story collection in French translation—Le Vieux Canapé Bleu (The Old Blue Couch) (Montreal: Mémoire d’éncrier, 2015)—and then said to the great excitement of the audience that the translator of the book was also there in the room, Joanne Desroches, a former graduate student in the TS program holding a master’s in literary translation, meanwhile an active and praised translator in her own right.  Seymour Mayne thanked both the host for the introduction and MARGENTO (among other things, the Romanian translator of a selection of Mayne’s word sonnets) for inviting him to participate.  Seymour read excerpts from the original title short story, “The Old Blue Couch,” passages where the speaker laments the loss of an old couch stolen from the porch of his house to the point where (funnily) maddened by grief he starts composing humorously fierce epigrammatic curses on the thieves, theatrically recited by the author to the great amusement of the audience.  The translator joined in with a remarkably lively, zesty, and comic performance of the same excerpts in her own percussive French rendition, being warmly applauded by everybody. 

Marc Charron then introduced the next speaker, Amanda Earl, praised Ottawa poet and writer, editor and publisher extremely active on the local literary scene.  Amanda spoke briefly about Duende, about translation and play in poetry, managing in the short intro to reference an impressive diversity of poets as/also translators and artists whose work has informed her own writing.  She then read a few excerpts from Kiki, her latest collection of long poems inspired by Montparnasse between the Wars featuring Alice Ernestine Prin also known as Kiki, the Queen, poems displaying a rich array of techniques including pure invention on her part, erasure, cut ups, paraphrases, and ekphrastic poetry.

MARGENTO started—as prompted by Marc Charron in the brief introduction—by saying a few words on Asymptote, the wide range of literatures and languages it has covered, the number, diversity, and spread of editors, the philosophy behind the enterprise, the editorial policies and consistency between the features in each section (and across sections), the London Book Fair Award nomination, and his own experience first as a contributor, then a reviewed author, and finally EaL.  From the very book reviewed in Asymptote, Nomadosophy, he read a poem illustrative of his own translational, transnational, and performative poetics—the Muddy Waters blues standard lyrics “Hoochie Coochie Man” translated and adapted in Romanian for a rock band (Cri Gri) and then translated back into English as a new poem-song fundamentally (re)shaped in the process—and then moved on to his Verse-Trans-Verse poetics involving translation in poetry writing, which he illustrated with a verse-trans-verse version of a classic poem by Ovid. 

The free discussion that followed involved questions and answers, and comments related to evolutions in contemporary literary translation, ways and opportunities to submit to Asymptote, the relationship between the academic field of Translation Studies and the actual practice of literary translation, translation and performance poetry, multilingual writing and translation, etc.  The very receptive, inquisitive, and sometimes even passionate audience consisting mainly of undergrad and grad students and academics in Translation Studies and English but also of local writers and artists proved a versatile, perceptive, and challenging spectator and interlocutor throughout the night and continued with praise, comments, and feedback in social media after the event as well.