Poettrio X Translation as Collaboration Event

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To showcase the fruits of a week’s hard work translating poetry at Newcastle University, and to bring together creative practitioners and translators from all over the UK, The Poettrio Experiment hosted a public event with a focus on collaboration. 

In the first half of the evening’s programme, visiting Dutch poets Menno Wigman and Hélène Gelèns read their originals that they submitted to the translation lab, with translator Willem Groenewegen ably reading on behalf of Elma van Haren (who sadly couldn’t make it). British poets Fiona Sampson, W. N. Herbert and Sean O’Brien read the translations-in-progress produced. To that, one trio of poets Bill Herbert and Menno Wigman and language advisor Rosemary Mitchell-Schuitevoerder discussed how they tackled challenges of translation, and co-investigator Fiona Sampson chaired a discussion between principal investigator Francis Jones and research associates Rebecca May Johnson and Sergio Lobejón Santos about the week’s translation labs.

[For the uninitiated: the poet-language advisor-poet trios work collaboratively and in person, and the poets are not necessarily experts in each other’s language. However, because of the contemporary hegemony of English as global lingua franca, the Dutch poets in this experiment were more familiar with English than the English poets were with Dutch. In our academic analysis, we explore how trios function, from the patterns of communication that arise between participants, to the strategies used to tackle problems of poetry translation and how moments of creativity arise in a trio setting.]

During the second half of the evening, the concept of collaborative translation was opened up to wider interpretation by poets, composers, artists and experimental translation practitioners visiting from University of Birmingham, University of Warwick, Roehampton University and beyond, as well as Newcastle University. This half brought in poets and creatives who had not previously engaged with translation in their own work to reflect on how they could re-imagine the process.

A selection of videos of the evening’s performances will be posted here soon, so you too can enjoy them… in the meantime, visit the ‘Translation as Collaboration’ section of the website to view the creative collaboration contributions. 

 

 

Stephen Watts on Co-Translation

via Stephen Watts on Co-Translation | Free Word

Acclaimed poet, editor and translator, Stephen Watts, shares his views on the art and power of co-translation.

I began co-translating in the early to mid-1990s, partly from an imperative and partly in a very natural way. I had met or was aware of many fine poets living in London, where I also was living, who were not writing in English and whose poetry was not being much or well translated. Some of these poets became my good friends and some of them began asking me to help translate their poetry so that they could find English language audiences where they were living: they needed such audiences beyond their own mother-tongue readers in order to better survive. Here, then, were the imperatives: friendship, political responsibility (many of the poets had been born in countries affected by British colonialism and/or postcolonial wars and I felt this keenly) and the existence of great poetry being written in England but not available in English. This was enough to prod me across and into co-translation:

“translation is a vital art / pulsing lifeblood through the heart”

~

READ the rest of this brilliant article here and explore the rest of the Free Word Centre’s work too: https://www.freewordcentre.com/explore/stephen-watts-on-co-translation

Activist Publishers and Institutions Translate

This piece about contemporary translation in the UK was first published on Versopolis, The European Review of Poetry, Books and Culture ( via Activist Publishers and Institutions Translate | Versopolis), commissioned by Professor Fiona Sampson.

by Dr Rebecca May Johnson 

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We are in a time of politics in the UK. — Of course, we always are: but the 2016 European referendum and the 2017 snap General Election saw people old and young feel the measure of their power again. They felt the power of pen marks on paper to upend the murky calm of the way things are, to grow flippers and swim against the overwhelmingly strong current of ‘common sense’ that usually dictates the course of events in Britain.

While the Brexit vote may feel in retrospect to many like a devastating act of self-harm and a confirmation of the worst undercurrents of xenophobia, it was also an act of public disobedience. This disobeying of received political wisdom has continued with the persistence of Jeremy Corbyn despite widespread consensus, among his own parliamentary party and broadsheet and tabloid media even of the left that his politics were “foolish”. The young, angry and hopeful felt the contours of their political muscles and flexed them: 64% of young voters voted in the General Election, and 62% of those voted Labour. Such disobedience is an act of imagination and a bet that they ( we ) can make the future differently.

Such a future will exist on the page, too  – and is already doing so. The mood of political intervention and a growing sense of empowerment is evident among publishers and the young curators running some cultural institutions too. A new generation has been remaking the literary world in a more diverse and radical way, and translation is at the heart of it.

In response to a talk at the 2015 Hay Festival and republished in the Guardian by novelist Kamila Shamsie about the low numbers of women winning literary prizes or sitting on panels, grass roots publisher And Other Stories – founded chiefly to bring challenging, ‘mind-blowing’ voices into English – pledged to publish only books by women in 2018. It has made good on its promise and so, next year, we can luxuriate in the numerous exciting books that have sprung forth from their extremely positive discrimination. To name some: the first ever translation into English of Argentinean modernist writer Norah Lange’s Personas en la sala(probable title, ‘The People in the Room’) by Charlotte Whittle, a reissue of Italian writer Fleur Jaeggy’s novel Sweet Days of Discipline translated by Tim Parks, a Lithuanian novel, Fish and Dragons by Undinė Radzevičiūtė about the painter Castiglioni and his time working in the Chinese court, a Catalan novel by Alicia Kopf Brother in Ice, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, that takes in autism, contemporary Catalan politics and the history of polar exploration and a Dominican novel by Rita Indiana, (title TBC).

Another activist publisher intending to alter the status quo is not-for-profit Tilted Axis, co-founded in 2015 by self-taught Korean translator Deborah Smith: in 2016 the first translator to share the International Man Booker prize with her author, in this case Han Kang for The Vegetarian. ‘Tilting the axis of world literature from the centre to the margins allows us to challenge that very division’, is the declared intent of the publisher. The beautifully designed paperbacks they’ve put out so far have brought previously unheard south and south-east Asian voices, including Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, into English. The publication of her book Panty, translated by Arunava Sinha, received rapturous reviews for its erotically-charged exploration of religion, nationhood, gender and sexuality: it shocked audiences in its original, Bengali language. In July, Tilted Axis will be publishing violent, haunting and formally experimental debut, The Impossible Fairytale by South Korean writer Han Yujoo and translated by Janet Hong. The book launches with a bilingual reading at The Free Word Centre on July 10th.

In a more philosophical vein, new feminist publisher Silver Press, founded by two editors from the London Review of Books, Alice Spawls and Joanna Biggs, and the communications director of Verso, Sarah Shin will round off their first year by publishing the theoretical forbear to Elena FerranteDon’t Think You Have Any Rights, first published as Non credere di avere dei diritti by The Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective (La Libreria delle donne di Milano) in 1987, puts forward the group’s arguments for ‘female entrustment networks’. The idea is that women seek out symbolic mothers and symbolic daughters (age not dependent) to support and validate each others’ lives ‘among but independent’ of men: a lived embodiment of Luce Irigaray’s critique of the symbolic register defined the Father, the phallus.  To entrust oneself, co-founder Luisa Muraro wrote, meant to “tie yourself to a person who can help you achieve something which you think you are capable of but which you have not yet achieved.”

A heartening show of awareness that translation is an important means of cultural advocacy and mediation (in the wake of the inward-turning Brexit vote) is the British Library’s gesture outwards to the world by appointing its first ‘translator in residence’ for two years, co-funded by the AHRC’s ‘Translating Cultures’ project. Jen Calleja who translates from German, is a published poet and is working on her own first experimental novel (as well as playing in numerous punk bands) is making her first move in the new role, the ‘Translating Gay Identities’ event, in September. A panel chaired by Calleja, with Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, who translated the first Arabic book to be launched in a gay bookshop, and Lawrence Schimel, a writer and translator of queer prose and poetry from Equatorial New Guinea, Spain and Zimbabwe, will explore the ethics of translating sexual identities.

Arts Council England has also put its money where its mouth is in the most recent round of grant allocation, just announced, by funding the Poetry Translation Centre for another four years. Activism is at the core of the Centre’s practice, which focuses on translating, publishing and touring poets from Africa, Asia and Latin America. In particular, its regular workshop series brings new poets from countries like China, Mauritiana, Georgia, and Jordan into English through non-specialist collective sessions, facilitated this season by poet Clare Pollard. These workshops are free for refugee or unwaged and inexpensive for the rest, and participants work collectively to produce translations. In doing so they challenging traditional ideas of the sovereign, solo authorial voice. The results, including the original text and literal and collective translations, are published on the Centre’s website, creating a huge archive of work, free to read. Visit their podcast too, to listen to readings of translated poetry and discussions of the translation process.

Two more books to look up. Published last year by Test Centre, Sophie Collins’ Currently and Emotion: Translations , edited and with a theoretical Preface, is an exploration of the possibilities of poetry translation. Including Anne Carson, Lawrence Venuti and Yoko Tawada alongside emerging practitioners, the volume sets out to challenge dominant concepts of the translation as a literary service that facilitates access to foreign texts, instead foregrounding the translator. The selection privileges work by and from female translators, and tends towards work that reveals the complex power dynamics in each act of translation, negotiating them in innovative ways.

Forthcoming in September from the London-based publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions is The Little Art by Kate Briggs. Part essay and part memoir, Briggs draws in a history of controversial translations of writers from Thomas Mann to Andre Gide, and puts forward a case for understanding the history of translation as a form of domestic, feminine labour.

Finally, there’s the project that I am involved in as a researcher, the AHRC-funded “Poettrio” project based between Newcastle and Roehampton Universities. We (me, and colleagues Dr Francis Jones, poet Professor Fiona Sampson, poet Professor Bill Herbert and Dr Sergio Lobejon-Santos) are constructing translation laboratories in Rotterdam and Newcastle and placing high profile Dutch and English poet-language advisor-poet trios together and to see how they work, how they feel and the kind of poems they produce. Results – assessed qualitatively and quantitatively through some serious analysis of data TBC.

As a further part of this project, I’m curating a Translation-as-Collaboration event on 20th July in Newcastle, where practitioners from across the UK will present collaboratively translated work across media (film, music, art) and even within languages (e.g. a feminist English, a Scouse English, diasporic Englishes), posing the question: when you translate – what are you bearing across? I am particularly excited to see artist/researcher Heather Connelly’s (of Translations Zones) and academic Gabriela Saldhana’s performance exploring the embodied position of the translator, problematising the process of speaking for another and through another. All welcome!

 

The Poettrio Experiment at Poetry International, Rotterdam

For the 48th Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, we took The Poettrio Experiment’s British poets, Sean O’Brien, Fiona Sampson, and Bill Herbert over to the Netherlands to carry out translation laboratories with Dutch poets Menno Wigman, Hélène Gelèns, and Elma van Haren and language advisors Karlein van den Beukel, Willem Groenewegen and Rosemary Mitchell-Schuitevoerder.

Over three days, the British and Dutch poets worked with language advisors in threes to translate the British poetry into Dutch. We filmed and recorded the trios working together, with researchers (Dr Jones, Dr Johnson and Dr Lobejón Santos) sitting in and observing how the trios worked to resolve ‘untranslatables’ and ambiguities, teased out the nuance in the British poems and interacted personally. 

After each day’s translating, we interviewed trio participants about their experience of that day’s trio – as the next day, they’d be working in a new trio. 

The trios produced a lot of exciting translations and we gathered a large amount of data about how the trio structure worked, as well as how the laboratory worked – remembering that people’s bodies were as important as their minds. Heat, hospital visits, appetites and seating positions all became factors in how trio participants felt that the translation process worked.

As part of the festival programme on Friday, the Dutch and British poets read a selection of their translated poetry, and one trio of Professor Fiona Sampson, Dr Karlien van den Beukel and Hélène Gelèns discussed the process of working together.

Principal Investigator Dr Francis R. Jones and Research Associates Dr Rebecca May Johnson and Dr Sergio Lobejón Santos discussed the trio laboratories with Jan Baeke on stage in front of an audience of festival attendees, commenting on the kind of quantitative and qualitative data we’ll be looking at for our analysis. 

See a link to our Poetry International Festival page here. Video of our presentation to follow. 

Translation as Collaboration | Call for submissions

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Translation as Collaboration

Call for submissions

Opening up the theme of translation to broad interpretation, The Poettrio Experiment are commissioning collaborative translations from all creative disciplines: writers, translators, artists, musicians, filmmakers…

Find a collaborator and translate each other’s work within or across different media.

Translate a text into an image, an image into a text, an Instagram picture into a poem, a Tweet into a film, an object into a short story, a poem into a composition…

Translate between different languages or translate between Englishes: translate an ‘English’ poem or prose into your English voice filled with your experience, or Scouse, or Scots or a Diasporic English. You could change the location, the scenery, the slang, the voice but somehow… translate.

Translate from a language you don’t know: read it like code and carry its graphic patterns into a new translated text or medium…

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: 1st July 2017

Performances of texts, films and compositions should last no longer than 5 minutes.

Public performance open to all in Newcastle University on

Thursday July 20th 2017 

DISCUSS your translation process on a new podcast for translation & creative disciplines at the University of Newcastle. 

Email queries to: rebecca.johnson3@newcastle.ac.uk

Twitter: @poettrios 

If you want to participate but don’t have a collaborator, contact us and we will find you one! 

The Poettrio Experiment is an AHRC-funded project researching translation trios based at Newcastle University, with The University of Roehampton.

Translation at Newcastle Poetry Festival w/ Bill Herbert, Fiona Sampson, Sophie Collins, Erica Jarnes and Joan Boase-Beier

‘All translation is only a provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages.’

Walter Benjamin

Discussion: Poetry and Translation

During Newcastle Poetry Festival, two members of the Poettrio Experiment, poets Bill Herbert and Fiona Sampson, will be taking part in a panel discussion about translating poetry with Professor Jean Boase-Beier from UEA, poet, editor and translator Sophie Collins who produced the groundbreaking volume of translated poetry Currently and Emotion: Translations, and Erica Jarnes writer, composer and managing director of The Poetry Translation Centre. 

Come along!

15:00–16:00 | Northern Stage, University of Newcastle | Stage 2 | FREE

 

Clare Archibald X Delaina Haslam X Line Toftsø

Underflow was a performance by Scottish writer Clare Archibald, translator and writer Delaina Haslam, and Danish artist and writer Line Toftsø. Underflow is a tri lingual text & audio-visual exploration of the linguistic spaces left by the loss of babies. It looks at the tongue that cannot be universally translated.

The trio met on Twitter and conducted much of their work via direct messaging on Twitter. They had never met in person until the event on July 20th 2017, with the exception of Line, who was not in the UK. Find them on Twitter here: Clare @archieislander Delaina @delainahaslam Line @linetofts 

WATCH the performance:

Clare Archibald 

Click here to hear Traduccion De Mi Mente, Clare’s Spanish-English piece.

Delaina Haslam

Ask me about my baby

1.

Doorbell.

A midwife.

‘It’s a bad time. It’s the funeral today.’

I don’t know if this woman – it’s a different one each time – knows of my circumstances. They’ve come every few days; they phone me when they discover I’m not in. But I’m not a new mother at home with my baby. I’ve been out visiting funeral directors and cemeteries.

2.

‘Do you feel you’ve had enough opportunities to talk to about what happened?’

‘No, not really … Our friends … they were amazing, um, over the period … But now, I don’t think they know if we want to talk about it.’

‘They perhaps don’t want to upset you.’

‘No.’

‘You seem, if you don’t mind me saying, more upset this week. I wondered if that might happen. It’s perfectly natural, and normal, really … Last week, well … I was quite surprised to see you arrive on a bike, to be honest.’

3.

‘So there’ve been two miscarriages, is that right?’

‘And an extremely premature birth …’

‘Ok, so how many children do you have now?’

‘None. He died.’

‘Oh that’s awful!’

[I thought you said you’d looked at my history.]

4.

The woman from Transport for London is sitting across from me. I’ve given her a cup of tea. I should be working but I’m answering survey questions about how I get around the city.

‘Do you have any children?’

‘No.’ [He died.]

[Ask me more. I want you to ask me more.]

‘So just you and your partner live here?’

‘Yes.’

I long to tell strangers my story. But no more questions come.

Line Toftsø Nyholm 

Lingua Pontem

lingua pontem

Explanation of collaboration

Clare Archibald
I asked Delaina to respond to my initial piece and then sent both pieces to Line.  Initially I had asked Line to respond visually but she asked if I wanted text as well which I hadn’t thought about, this was then left up to her & she added some text which I think enhances the whole piece & process. In terms of my piece I’d been looking to write a section of my book about being on holiday in Spain immediately before the planned birth of a baby that I knew would die. Although I spoke Spanish it was very rusty & I thought a lot about not having the words to explain easily in any language. Being able to do the piece in a kind of free dialogue with other people whose outcomes were unknown was really liberating & interesting. Writing the piece I had to translate ideas linguistically which was an interesting process & was really insightful in terms of thinking about acts of translation & linguistic spaces. Initially Delaina was unsure how she could respond to it, I suggested a list but the process was really open to us all individually & she went with what worked. I’ve since expanded the piece to include other unspoken elements (not in original due to timing restraints). We gave each other feedback on pieces but essentially decisions were left with the individuals. 

We collaborated solely by Twitter DM and email (none of us know each other or have spoken outside of online interaction). There were no real challenges and it was a pretty straightforward,  very positive process. 

I have no previous experience in this area other than I write a lot in response to visual prompts (taken generally by me but also via projects such as Visual Verse & Spontaneity Art)
Delaina Haslam
‘Ask me about my baby’ translates ‘Traduccion de mi mente’ into an alternative experience of baby loss. In the first part of our collaboration, Clare’s audio text searches for language to express a wish not to be asked questions. My response comprises four vignettes depicting the absence of a baby and how this absence influences dialogue with strangers. The experience of a presence and a wish not to be asked questions is translated into the experience of an absence and the desire to be asked questions.
Our collaboration is perhaps remarkable in that I have never met Clare or Line. Clare and I were put in touch by a mutual friend who knew we were both writing about baby loss, and who also told us about the Poettrio call for submissions. The inspiration for our collaboration came relatively easily. Clare was inspired by her experience of needing to learn Spanish to deal with a traumatic situation. For me, this quickly translated into my most difficult experience: finding the language to express something no longer visible. Clare suggested a list of questions that often get asked and their imagined, desired answers alongside the real answers: ‘Do you have children?’; ‘Yes, one but he died’; ‘No.’ But I was cautious not to appear to blame anyone for any questions that I may have been. Instead, I chose snippets of scenes which suggest the pain and loss. I’m used to writing longer prose texts, and Clare was instrumental in helping me cut this down to the bare minimum for the impact of suggestion.
I am a translator and a writer, and this collaboration combined these two functions. I most often translate sociological texts from French. Creating ‘Underflow’ was closer to my experience of writing experimental memoir and poetry than it was to my experience as a translator.

Bios

Clare Archibald is a Scottish writer interested in the interplay of forms and the potential of collaboration. She has previously been chosen to read at Storyshop at Edinburgh International Book Festival, was longlisted in the 2016 Lifted Brow/RMIT international prize for experimental nonfiction and is currently completing her work of experimental narrative nonfiction The Absolution of Shyness.

Delaina Haslam is a translator and writer. She translates from French and Spanish to English in the field of sociology. Before going into translation she worked as a journalist and editor for publications in Madrid and London including le cool. She’s writing her first novel about the experience of a mother’s grief after the death of her baby in 2014. 

Line Toftsø (born1969) Danish artist and writer. Published ‘Jeg bevæger kun øjnene’ (poetry) in 2015. First solo exhibition in 1992 in Copenhagen. Lives & works in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Gabriela Saldanha X Heather Connelly

Escurrir is a collaborative script performed by Heather Connelly and translator and academic Gabriela SaldanhaEscurrir, can be translated as ‘drain, wring, slip away’ it is a playful work that exposes translation as a generative and performative act.

WATCH the performance:

The work is based upon the translation of the Riordan and Takayanagi’s (1896:v) metaphoric description of the difficulty of translating Japanese literature, ‘whose peculiar beauties are apt to disappear like the opal tints of a squeezed jellyfish’, (Henitiuk in St Andre 2014:144). Saldanha translated the English term, Jelly Fish, into Spanish and then back into English, which became [agua viva] ‘Live Water’ or [Medusa] ‘ Medusa’. We worked together discussing the merits of these subsequent metaphors and continued to expand the associations that they produced through the iterative translation and back-translation forming an elliptical ‘feedback loop’, that exploits the generative nature of translation and how the concept becomes expanded as it passes between languages.

The process: The work has been designed to evolve through constant editing and reworking and expand as each term is translated, back translated, and discussed as we consider what these ‘new’ terms tell us about the process of translation. Following on from experiments made during her residency at the Summerlodge (Nottingham Trent University , Connelly is  seeking ways to engage with the materiality of this process, to record and expose what is/has taken place, and how new articulations for translation are conjured up through these subtle shifts of vocabulary. She has begun to explore the potential of the physical artefact in documenting and baring witness to this ongoing practice and evolving process.

Escurrir | Abstract

Artist/researcher, Heather Connelly, and Translation Studies academic, Gabriela Saldanha, will perform a script in Spanish and English that explores the unstable and shifting subject positions of the translator and the translated. The two protagonists problematise the process of speaking for another and through another, performatively exposing translation as a multiple, provisional and embodied phenomenon. Theoretically the dialogue concerns the potential of two conceptual mappings to account for the translator’s subjective and embodied response: translation as restored behaviour (Schechner 1885) and translation as linguistic hospitality (Ricoeur 2006).

The text has been developed collaboratively as part of an informal research project between Connelly and Saldanha to expand their personal research into the performativity of translation within their respective fields (art and translation) and to test out what new knowledge can emerge out of this transdisciplinary practice-based research, which pays equal attention to process of writing and the sensorial activity of performing and enunciating the words. The text evolves with each iteration, taking different forms dependent upon the context within which it is presented, and often includes other participants.

Connelly seeks to engage academics in artist-led research, demonstrating the benefits of transdisciplinarity in examining a topic from multiple perspectives through a dialogic engagement with theoretical and tacit knowledge. Whereas Saldanha’s interest in translation stylistics has led her to argue that the anthropological understanding of performance as restored behaviour allows us to map literary translation as performance in a way that is closely in line with how translators tend to see their own practice.

The images that played while Heather and Gabriela performed.

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Jessica Sequeira X Jessica Rainey

Jessica Sequeira and Jessica Rainey both translate from Spanish to English. Their collaboration responds to the work of young Chilean poets and includes audio-visuals, translations and documentary poems sourced from Chilean news reports. 

At the presentation (at which Jessica Sequeira could not be present, as she was in Chile) a video that she made with Jessica Rainey was screened while Jessica Rainey read over it. 

WATCH HERE: 

Read the text and watch the video piece below:

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Part 3: process and presentation

Jessica Sequeira

I collaborated with Jessica Rainey, another translator from Spanish to English. For the Poettrio Experiment, we wanted to focus on Latin American poetry that included but was not limited to “straight” translations of the text from one language to another. Over email we threw around ideas about how we might incorporate video and documentary poetry. As I happen to be in Santiago de Chile at the moment, we also thought this would be a great opportunity to incorporate some work by contemporary poets, more or less young (under 40). With four poets who work at the Fundación Neruda in Chile, I recorded a video that combines abstract images, the poets’ readings of their work in Spanish, and my English language translations of the texts. This came to just under five minutes. The poets were very enthusiastic about getting involved, as well as about seeing their work translated, having it presented abroad, and opening it up to further avantgarde or creative possibilities; they were also very curious about Newcastle and its literary and translation scene! Jessica then had the great idea of producing “found poem” responses to the original poems and translations, incorporating documentary material from Chile. She wrote several docu-poems which are timed to be read during the live performance, during gaps in the video between poems and translations. This has been a wonderful process, which involved chance (my pairing with another Jessica working SP > EN; my presence in Santiago for a poetry festival at La Chascona), “standard” translation (the rendering of four poets’ work into English), collaboration (the use of documentary material inspired by Jessica’s background, which I would never have thought to add myself) and modernist techniques (the incorporation of cut-up texts using non-fiction materials). The title of our project, “The difficult art of living in Santiago de Chile”, is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it was thought up in collaboration with the four Santiago poets, who all write urban literature that very much reflects their interests and concerns as poets in the capital.

Jessica Rainey

The fact that Jessica Sequeira was in Chile working with poets was too good an opportunity to miss and became the obvious starting point for our collaboration. We agreed that the Poettrio Experiment was a chance to experiment with translation processes or presentation options that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore, and early on decided that it would be great to introduce a multi-media aspect to the presentation as a way to ensure the (otherwise physically absent) presence of the majority of the participants. Beyond that, the collaboration became quite an organic process, and effectively fell into two parts. In Chile, Jessica S. worked with the source poets, adeptly selecting, translating, recording and producing an audio-visual film. Meanwhile, I considered options for introducing documentary elements into the project – background information, news clips or article extracts – though it was not until I received the texts and video that my possible contribution became clearer. I decided to select key words, images or concepts from each individual poem and run an online search for relevant reports from Chilean media sources or organisations. Rather than translate these sources wholesale, I used the reports to create ‘found’ or ‘documentary’ poem-translations to give a flavour of Chile as portrayed by its media, yet accessed and processed by an outsider who had never visited the country. Although sentences or phrases do not necessarily appear in consecutive order, the translation of each unit can be described as faithful, with the exception of the fourth poem where some words or phrases were intentionally omitted. Wilful mistranslation or misrepresentation of facts, however, was never an aim of this stage. Rather, the aim was to support the original poems in concept and tone while providing an objective counterpoint to the lyric and translated poems. Among the initial ideas for incorporating the found poems was to include subtitles on the video; however, as the video was complete and neither of us were sufficiently techie to easily introduce them, the only other possibility seemed to be a live reading alongside the video projection. The reading of the found poems at times overlaps the source poems, at times the translations, in what is an imperfect but hopefully interesting polyphonic experiment. In keeping with the idea of translation trios and poetry experiments, then, we have somewhat inadvertently produced a three-tiered project (source poems, translated poems plus additional translation layer) that began in Chile with a live collaboration between poets and an initial translator, and ends in Newcastle with a live performance involving a second translator and finished film.

Martin Heslop X Helen Tookey

Composer and writer Martin Heslop and poet Helen Tookey collaborated to produce highly effective sound pieces, where sound and word were constantly re-translated across media.
They presented ‘Jitties’ at the event on the 20th July.

WATCH a film of Martin and Helen’s presentation

 
~
Listen to the collaborative piece “Jitties” here: 

Jitties

aren’t on the map but you’ve always known them the dogleg through to the playschool the library the cuts through estates the tunnels that bring you out differently you have always wanted this to move unseen to cut passages able to slip through the cracks like the streams along the field edge the housebacks the narrowways the creosote fences overhangs of trees the gardens’ wild endings not overlooked not comprehended another life under this one humming with motorway a kind of code you slip away you’ve always known it danger under culverts circling spikes to stop you crossing by the pipeline watercourses older ways the body can read can know their presence motorway humming with escapes not speaking turning inwards creosote wood hot slabs tiny observation posts world expands to fill the space allowable constraint produces meaning under pressure it codes heightens you are aware the wires the tracks humming for miles concentrated here where you must be not speaking but knowing everything is there in the spaces between

Read their account of the collaborative translation process they forged:

Helen

The process began with conversations between Martin and me about what I had wanted the poems to convey or how I had wanted them to work as poems, and what he envisaged being able to do with them as sound pieces. Martin recorded me reading the poems, then he took the sound files away to work with and I waited to see what he would come up with. It was exciting for me precisely because he was creating new objects from the poems in a way that I couldn’t do myself. Many of the poems use fragmentation to try to convey a particular experience; in ‘Jitties’ I wanted to convey a sense of the language sliding, piling up, and in ‘Beautiful Error’ a sense of a mind going over and over a question, trying it out in lots of different ways. But I could only do that to some extent, because the text (printed or read) is fixed in one layout, one order. What I really love about the collaboration with Martin is that he’s been able to bring what I imagined into being through recorded sound far more than I could do it on the printed page – cutting up the vocal track, layering it over itself, so that you really get the sense I wanted of a kind of urgency and slipperiness. And the sound also enables the build-up of a mood, a texture – of eeriness, say, in ‘Beautiful Error’ – far more effectively than just the printed words could. So what I have found really exciting about this process is that on the one hand I’m giving the text, the poem, to Martin with a completely free hand – I want it to be entirely up to him what he makes from it, so that it comes back to me, as it were, as a new object; but on the other hand, with these poems that has actually resulted in a more complete realisation of what I wanted the poems to be able to do, because sound recording adds so many possibilities, particularly that of being able to make the language move and track over itself in ways that a fixed text can’t.

Martin

These particular poems of Helen’s, as opposed to some of our other work, were presented to me as finished pieces, and so in order to make something new I immediately decided that I was going to cut and splice the words, to repeat them, layer them, reverse them. Helen very kindly gave me free rein in this. The recordings of the text already had an immediacy and pace to them and I wanted to encourage that. I began by noting down sounds from the real everyday world that the poems reminded me of, then started exaggerating them or bastardising them until they sounded like something completely different. Sometimes these sounds that I’m looking for are in an instrument or a synthesiser, but equally can be found in the noises of a building site or in a long breath or in the clatter of metal. I go around hitting things, pressing buttons, listening until I find the right sound or mood.

It’s always a strange process, translating poetry which is able to describe all the senses, into a recording that is only experienced by the ears, and the challenge, as always, was to find the right tone; to work with the words but not be prescriptive or predictable; to find the right pacing and in some cases rhythm, and particularly in this case as these are short pieces, to set the mood quickly. There are also the odd times when I feel the need to disrupt the words, to impose on them, and the key is to know when to do this, and with Helen’s delicate yet precise writing I have to be careful. A lot of my music is written in collaboration with poets, playwrights and visual artists, and the style and tone of each project is different, but the joy of working with Helen is the care in which each word is placed on the page, their flow, but also how often the poems end up in unexpected places, and consequently this gives me plenty of room to experiment with sounds.

I recently read a book called Animalinside by the wonderful Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai with drawings by Max Neumann, and reading about their process afterwards was particularly interesting. The writer first responded to one of Neumann’s images and then Neumann, inspired by the words, made a further set of images, to which Krasznahorkai then responded by writing more texts. This back and forth, this cross-pollination of ideas and art-forms is exciting, and the projects myself and Helen are planning and developing are moving towards this way of working.

Bios: 
Helen Tookey is a poet based in Liverpool, where she teaches creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University. Her debut collection Missel-Child (Carcanet, 2014) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney first collection prize. Her pamphlet In the Glasshouse was published by HappenStance Press in 2016, and the CD/booklet If You Put Out Your Hand, a collaboration with musician Sharron Kraus, came out from Wounded Wolf Press also in 2016.
 
Martin Heslop is a composer, writer and sound artist based in Newcastle. He has written musical scores and lyrics for short and full-length theatre shows and film, and has worked on many collaborations with poets, playwrights and visual artists for live performances, recordings and installations. He is currently studying for an MA in creative writing at Newcastle University.