Poetry in Transatlantic Translation: Encounters Across Languages

deadline for submissions: 
March 5, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Bangor University, Wales UK
contact email: 

Poetry in Transatlantic Translation: Encounters Across Languages

June 15th-18th 2021

Bangor University, Wales

Keynotes:

Don Mee Choi
Forrest Gander

This conference will explore the role that translation plays in mediating transatlantic poetry relationships. By understanding the Atlantic as multilingual, and poetry from the UK and USA in the broader contexts of Europe and the Americas, it will challenge the assumption that anglophone poetry inhabits a seamless transatlantic space, as imagined, for example in a culture of 'international' literary prizes open only to works written in English. The apparent fluidity of this space is formed by the exclusions and inequalities of a colonial past, and it also masks the very real differences of cultural experience and contemporary politics between the USA and the UK. What role does poetry translation play in this context?

Jahan Ramazani’s A Transnational Poetics (2015) makes the case for poetry as a form that, above others, travels imaginatively, since poetry’s valuable potential is to create new spaces of intercultural discourse through its 'radial connections, imaginative leaps, and boundary-crossing ventures.' While Ramazani’s observations relate to poetry written in English, poetry translation generates further modes of transnational encounter. It can expose closely protected values, as Johannes Göransson argues in Transgressive Circulation (2018), showing how, in the USA, a belief in poetry as an expression of interiority has become part of the promotion of a hegemonic global culture. At the same time, translation can open the way for a reimagination of the ‘foreign body’ of the translated text.

International poetry festivals, particularly across Europe and Latin America, have modelled a utopian vision of international exchange through live events focused on poetry translation, in contrast to the typically more commercial emphasis of anglophone literary festivals. What is at stake in such events and the communities they create? How might they now evolve as a result of the pandemic and increasing ecological concerns?

Contributions are invited that open new lines of critical discussion and communication in poetry, its translation, practice, and circulation. In looking at how the poetry of different languages traverses the Atlantic space, the conference will explore contrasts as well as synergies, existing connections as well as the potential for new collaborations and relationships.

Proposals (300 words by March 5th 2021) are welcome for academic papers of 20 minutes or for a limited number of hour-long participatory workshops that will experiment with different forms of collaborative translation. In either case, they might address the following questions:

  • How are poetry communities formed across languages and cultures? Who is included or excluded, and what structures support them?
  • What role does translation play in decolonising poetry, or in extending neocolonial cultural hegemony? How might it decolonise more effectively?
  • How does translation contribute to the diversity of poetry networks in terms of race, gender and minority cultures?
  • What ideas or values are disrupted in the process of translation?
  • What is the value of international relationships in poetry and how can they be sustained in a time of ecological and economic crisis?
  • How can poetry in English be placed more fully in dialogue with the languages that surround it?
  • How does multilingual poetry reimagine geographies of identity? What is its relationship to translation?
  • What approaches to the practice of poetry translation might enable new conversations to take place?
  • What do experimental forms of poetry and translation contribute to or draw from transatlantic exchange?
  • What structures enable multilingual exchange across the Atlantic? How might these be developed?
  • What are the distinctions and overlaps between poetry and translation as modes of practice? How might these to be understood through reference to the figure of the 'poet-translator'?

    Conference Organisers

    Professor Zoë Skoulding (Bangor University, z.skoulding@bangor.ac.uk) and Dr Dan Eltringham (University of Sheffield, d.eltringham@sheffield.ac.uk)

    Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. 

This conference is being planned on the basis that participants will be able to travel to Bangor. Large spaces have been booked and all safety precautions will be taken. Should Covid-related health or travel restrictions cause difficulties, the event will take place either online (wholly or partly) or at a later date.