Last weekend was a big, poetry filled feast. After attending the Melbourne Spoken Word Prize on Friday night I headed back into the city on Saturday morning to attend a Transcollaborate event. Transcolloborate are a not-for-profit organisation who bring together people from diverse language backgrounds to translate children's literature, short stories and poetry into other languages, mainly English.
We did two group exercises. Each group contained people from different language backgrounds including Spanish, Romanian, Cypriot, French, Korean and English.
In the first exercise we had little pieces of paper on which were words that we had to form into a poem. The words were taken from English language translations of a poem written by two of the workshop participants. One poem was originally written by Koraly Dimitriadis in Cypriot and then translated into English. The words my group worked with came from a poem originally written in Romanian by Vasile Baghiu and translated by Cristina Savin. The poems were read to us in their original languages but we had no idea what the English translation meant.
The exercise blew my mind. I've been using other people's work for my 2019 Poetry Challenge but only five words at a time. Using words from an entire poem, originally written another language was incredible. There was so much more scope while still being limited. If you wanted another "and' for example and it wasn't there you had to get creative. I really enjoy working with a limited palette - I find it focuses the mind and provides clarity.
The aim of the second exercise was to translate a poem from another language into English. Our group received a poem in Romanian. Each group had a native speaker of the language of the poem - they were the source translator. The other people in the group were the target translators - speakers of the language the poem would be translated into. We got to grill ur source translator about the meaning of the words. Could it be this? Or what about this?
There was a definite tension between making the final poem and it's English translation beautiful whilst retaining the meaning of the original as imparted by the source translator. There were times when we target translators wanted a certain phrasing but were given an emphatic no from the source translator because it did not fit her reading of the original Romanian. Of course, a work can be interpreted in many different ways by many different people. As one of the participants noted, it's hard to translate a work without knowing anything abut the author and what they were attempting to create with their work.
I loved working with my group to translate the poem by Costel Stancu from Romanian to English. I only speak one language and never dreamed I would one day be translating other languages. Collaborations are incredible experiences - it's amazing what you can create when you come together.