Tag Archives: Camille Dungy

A great time was had by all at Bruce Ronda’s retirement celebration

  • Harrison Candelaria Fletcher has a lyric essay, “Family Cookbook,” accepted by Florida Review. It’s part of a new collection exploring mixed-ness and in-between-ness.
  • Camille Dungy’s poem, “Natural History,” was awarded a Pushcart Prize and will be played published in the Best of the Small Presses anthology.
  • Joanna Doxey has a poem in the latest edition of the Denver Quarterly (51.3).
  • Jaime Jordan’s Digital Humanities class (E280) has created a blog showcasing some of the digital projects they’ve worked on this semester.  Check it out at https://exploredhblog.wordpress.com!
  • Second year MFA student Claire Boyles had an essay, “Failing at Important Things: A Parallel History,” place as a runner-up in Vela Magazine’s nonfiction contest, judged by Claire Vaye Watkins. The essay is live on the site: http://velamag.com/failing-at-important-thingsa-parallel-history/
  • Cedar Brant won the Academy of American Poet’s Prize for CSU.
  • David Mucklow was accepted and offered a scholarship to attend the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop this summer, and will be attending at the end of June. A few weeks ago, his poem, “where Deer Creek dies into the Gallatin,” was published on Daily Gramma. You can find it on their site here – http://gramma.press/
  • Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri’s flash story, “A Bunny’s Kidnapping” has been accepted for publication at “Gone Lawn.”
  • Come celebrate the new 2017 Fort Collins Poet Laureate (our very own Felicia Zamora!) on Sunday, May 7 from 6-8 PM at Wolverine Farm Publick House! Enjoy readings from Felicia Zamora (MFA alumnae), John Calderazzo (professor of English Emeritus), and Michelle Deschenes (MFA alumnae). For more information, please see the event calendar listing or Facebook event page.

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Poudre River, image by Jill Salahub

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We’re Hiring!

 

CLC is looking for interns!

Internship with the Community Literacy Center (CLC)

Job Description:  The intern (junior, senior or grad student) will work with the Community Literacy Center faculty to design a set of literacy research and outreach projects.  Projects might include one or more of the following:

  • working with a faculty mentor to pilot community literacy programming such as creative writing mini-classes, workplace writing mentorships, or literacy tutoring experiences;
  • investigating current policy on a national and regional level in order to understand the politics of funding public education;
  • developing training materials for community-based literacy partnerships;
  • researching and writing grant proposals;
  • working directly with a community partner in order to understand a research question (e.g. what is the relationship between socio-economics and an extracurricular book club?);
  • researching and building the CLC webpage;
  • planning and facilitating a local literacy event (readings, workshops, etc.);

developing assessment tools in order to measure how literacy skills are advanced by a particular classroom approach or set of materials;

  • working with a mentor in the CLC office to gain experience with literacy program administration;
  • designing a research study and collecting primary data on existing literacy outreach programs; or
  • an alternative project designed by you.

Interns manage one community literacy workshop (weekly, 1.5 hours) and are responsible for transcribing writing, encouraging writers with written feedback, and managing a small team of volunteers.

Credit:  Interns can earn up to 6 credits for their work.

The application for an internship is online at https://csuclc.wordpress.com/intern-resources/.  Please apply by May 5.

All independent internships must be approved by the English Department’s Internship Coordinator, Cassie.Eddington@colostate.edu.

Additional opportunity:  If you are interested in volunteer work with the CLC, go to https://csuclc.wordpress.com/intern-resources/ for more information.

 

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We’re coming to the end of National Poetry Month. It has been a challenge to limit ourselves to just a month’s worth of influential poets and poetic forms, while including space for CSU’s own poets. We’ve barely brushed the surface. If we’ve learned anything this month, it would be that poetry is a powerful magic, a potent medicine, and poets are the ones we look to when “she cannot find the words/for the nothing in her center.”

One of our favorite poets, Camille Dungy, reading some of her poetry.

One of our favorite poets, Camille Dungy, reading some of her poetry.

To end our spotlight this month, we are featuring the fourth of our CSU English faculty poets, Camille Dungy. We remain excited about the recent release of her new collection of poetry, Trophic Cascade, (March 2017). “Dungy writes about the world in which we must all survive in a time of massive environmental degradation, violence, and abuse of power.” Earlier this week, Poetry Daily featured her title poem, Trophic Cascade, a powerful piece that compares the change that happened to the ecosystem in Yellowstone after the reintroduction of the gray wolf to the personal transformation that took place for the poet once she became a mother, “After which, nothing was ever the same.” This single poem does what the rest of the collection does so well — telling beautiful and sometimes brutal stories of life, embodying both the personal and the natural world in a single unified narrative.

We recently featured Dungy on the blog during Women’s History Month. There’s also a profile we did when she first arrived at CSU. Rather than repeat ourselves, we decided this time to ask the poet herself to speak for herself about poetry and this new collection.

Can you tell us just a little about Trophic Cascade and your inspiration for this collection of poetry?

It’s often hard to summarize a book of poetry. Here’s what we say about the book on the book: “In this fourth book in a series of award-winning survival narratives, Dungy writes positioned at a fulcrum, bringing a new life into the world even as her elders are passing on. In a time of massive environmental degradation, violence and abuse of power, a world in which we all must survive, these poems resonate within and beyond the scope of the human realms, delicately balancing between conflicting loci of attention. Dwelling between vibrancy and its opposite, Dungy writes in a single poem about a mother, a daughter, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, brittle stars, giant boulders, and a dead blue whale. These poems are written in the face of despair to hold an impossible love and a commitment to hope.”

In terms of the inspiration for writing the book, I was beginning to write new poems in a moment when I was bringing a new life into this world. But I also happened to be losing loved ones, to old age and illness, but also (if I think more proudly about what and who I love) to environmental degradation, domestic and global violence, and more. Thinking about regeneration (oh joy!) in the midst of peril (oh no!) moved my writing in a particular direction, and eventually I produced the poems you’ll read in this book.

Since it’s National Poetry month, what is your favorite poetry collection? Or favorite poem?

I always have a hard time answering this question. I’m a poet and a professor of poetry. This means I read for a living and I read for pleasure. There is just no way I can narrow things down to one favorite. Because I know that this question is meant to help readers discover poetry they might love, I can give a list of five books I find myself returning to again and again.

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (1965-2000). Boa Editions.
The Apple Trees at Olema, Robert Hass. (Ecco)
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay (Pittshburg UP)
Citizen, Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
The Verging Cities, Natalie Scenters-Zapico (Center for Literary Publishing)

Why do you think poetry is so important?

The great poet Audre Lorde says, in her essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury”: “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” I agree. Poetry is a path toward empathy. Poetry is a path toward a deep brand of knowledge. Poetry is a means toward inscribing beauty on a broken world. Poetry is a register of life. I could go on…

In one sentence, what advice would you give a student who is an aspiring poet?

Read more poetry.

 

And that seems like the perfect thing to leave you with at the end of this month of celebration. Consider this your charge for not just the next month but for the next 365 days: Read more poetry. (And if you need any recommendations, just ask us).

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  • Matthew Cooperman currently has new poems out in The Laurel Review and Saltfront, in print. Online, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, is featuring three of his poems at http://maryjournal.org/fall2016/?page_id=416
  • On Wednesday, April 5, Camille Dungy will present at the Newberry Library, Chicago as part of a panel in celebration of the centennial of poet and former US Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. As part of a citywide celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks marking the one-hundredth anniversary of her birth, the Newberry will gather poets, scholars, historians, and archivists to discuss the historical context of Brooks’ groundbreaking first book of poems, A Street in Bronzeville. Published in in August 1945—the same month that World War II ended—the collection expresses the rich complexities of life on Chicago’s South Side within the larger fight for democracy both at home and abroad. https://www.newberry.org/04052017-gwendolyn-brooks
  • Todd Mitchell attended and delivered a session on “Teaching Dystopian Fiction” at this year’s Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver.
  • Debbie Vance’s short story, “Choose Your Own,” was accepted for publication in the next issue of Black Warrior Review.
  • Steven Schwartz’s Madagascar: New and Selected Stories is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Foreword Review Award for Short Stories.
  • Rico Moore, MFA Summer 2011 (Poetry), has had four poems (“Immanence of Star,” “Three Lyrics Composed of Words from Seneca’s Epistle, ‘On the God within Us,’” “When Awakened at Night by the Quiet,” and “What You’ve Unearthed from the Past,” appear in the journal, LVNG, number 17, online at https://lvngmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/lvng17.pdf.In addition, Rico has been a freelance writer for the past two years with Boulder Weekly. He writes about plans through which the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife hopes to kill mountain lions and bears in the name of boosting mule deer populations. His articles include “Off target: are mountain lions and bears about to be killed for the sins of the oil and gas industry?,” “Update: Commission asked to delay killing of mountain lions and bears in the name of sound science,” and “CPW and the oil and gas industry can’t have it both ways.”  An update, published Thursday, deals with an injunction filed by WildEarth Guardians.  You can read these articles online at http://www.boulderweekly.com/author/ricomoore/.
  • On March 27 at a ceremony at the Tishman Auditorium in New York, Natalie Scenters-Zapico accepted the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry for her book The Verging Cities, published by the Center for Literary Publishing as part of the Mountain West Poetry Series.

Rekindle the Classics 

The next Rekindle the Classics discussion will be on Wednesday, April 12, 6:30-8:30 pm at Wolverine Farms Publick House. MFA student Lauren Matheny will lead a discussion of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Rekindle the Classics brings together CSU English faculty and graduate students and lovers of literature in the Fort Collins community. For more information, see http://blog.poudrelibraries.org/2017/01/rekindle-a-love-of-the-classics/

English Department Writing Contests

The English department has FOUR different writing contests running right now. Check out the details here, and submit something!

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CSU’s own Professor Camille Dungy is an award-winning author of four full-length poetry collections and the editor of three poetry anthologies. Her first collection of literary essays, Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History, will be published in June.

Dungy was born in Denver in 1972, but her family moved frequently around the country when she was a child. She attended Stanford as an undergraduate and later received an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

When Dungy’s first collection of poetry, What to Eat, What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison, appeared in 2006, it was widely praised. It was a finalist for the 2007 PEN USA Book Award and the 2007 Library of Virginia Literary Award. In 2010, Dungy published two additional poetry collections: Suck on the Marrow and Smith Blue. The collections’ recurring themes include African American identity and history, as well as nature and the human relationship to nature.

Noticing the scarcity of African American writers in canonized nature poetry, Dungy edited an anthology titled Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, which was published in 2009.

In a 2010 interview on National Public Radio, Dungy spoke about the complex relationship the anthology explores between African Americans and nature, saying, “there has always been promise and survival in the natural world” for African American people.

Dungy also collaboratively edited Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade in 2006 and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems That Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great in 2009.

Dungy’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals and eleven anthologies to date, including The Best American Poetry and The 100 Best African American Poems. She has received fellowships and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the American Antiquarian Society, Cave Canem, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Djerrassi Resident Artist Program, Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Norton Island Artist Residency Program. Her work has received the Dana Award, the Sustainable Arts Foundation Promise Award, and two Northern California Book Awards. She has twice been a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in 2010 and 2011.

Dungy’s most recent collection, Trophic Cascade, was released on March 7 of this year. On Sunday, March 5, friends, family, faculty, and students gathered at Forge Publick House in Old Town for the book’s release party, eager to hear Dungy read from her newest collection.

The gathering also honored recently-published poetry collections by Colorado poets Eleni Sikelanios (Make Yourself Happy) and Julie Carr (Objects from a Borrowed Confession).

Like many of Dungy’s previous works, Trophic Cascade explores and illuminates the natural world, but motherhood also features prominently as a theme. As Dungy stepped up to the microphone to read, her daughter clung to the hem of her skirt, not wanting to sit quietly with her father and grandparents while her mother read. In fact, Dungy had collaborated with her daughter in choosing poems about their relationship to read for the event. One poem dwelled on a quiet moment reading books with the infant girl; another answered a “frequently asked question” about whether the author plans to have another child. (She doesn’t.)

Camille and her daughter at the March 7 reading

The collection’s title poem, “Trophic Cascade,” was first published by the Kenyon Review in 2015. “Trophic Cascade” traces the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and the interconnectedness of lives and species evidenced by it; the wolves affected deer, trees, bears, birds, weasels, berries, and even insects. Throughout the collection, the reader witnesses again and again the impact one life has upon another.

Dungy has a second publication coming up this year; her first nonfiction collection, Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History, will be available on June 13.

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Sunset on the Oval, image by Colorado State University

  • Dan Beachy-Quick had a conversation with Alex at Wolverine Farms that is now this podcast: http://www.wolverinefarm.org/matter-podcast/
  • Sue Doe and Mike Palmquist presented a workshop on writing across the curriculum to the faculty at CSU Pueblo last Thursday. They enjoyed the drive south and the conversation in both directions, but didn’t have a lot of good things to say about the snow, ice, and parking-lot conditions on I-25 south of Denver.
  • A Release Party for new poetry collections by Camille Dungy with Eleni Sikelianos and Julie Carr at Old Firehouse Books was held Sunday, March 5. 4-5:30 pm.
  • Kristina Quynn chaired a panel on innovative literary criticism at the Literature and Culture Since 1900 Conference at the University of Louisville last week.  Her paper, “Good Writers, Bad Selfies,” explored avant-garde, self-reflexive literary portraits in the work of Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Anaïs Nin, and Kristjana Gunnars.
  • Caleb Gonzalez’s travel essay “One Ticket, Twenty Euros” that he wrote for Sarah’s Sloane’s CNF Workshop last semester was published in InTravel Magazine this week! http://www.intravelmag.com/intravel/interest/one-ticket-twenty-euros-pamplona-at-the-running-of-the-bulls 

Food Student Essay Contest 2016/2017 

CO150 Faculty: If you’re using the FOOD reader, please encourage your best students to submit essays for the Food essay contest!

 

Outstanding Literary Essay Awards

The English Department’s Literature Program announces the 14th annual Outstanding Literary Essay Awards contest, which recognizes outstanding critical writing and interpretive work in literary studies.  Undergraduate applicants must be registered English majors or minors; essays from graduate applicants should have been written for a graduate-level class at CSU.  Awards of $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third place will be offered at both the graduate and undergraduate level.  Winners will be honored at the English Department Awards on Monday, April 24, 2017.

Submission Guidelines: Students should submit an essay that represents their best critical work in literary studies.  Undergraduate essays should be no longer than 15 pages and graduate essays should be no longer than 20 pages.  Shorter papers are welcome.  Only one submission is allowed per student.

Eligibility: (1)  Essay should be written for a course taken in the CSU English Dept. (2)  Writer should be an English major or English minor

Submission deadline is Monday April 3, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. 

Please submit:

  • TWO clean copies, with no name, address, or instructor’s comments. Only a title and page numbers should appear on the paper.
  • Include with your essay a separate cover sheet with your (a)name, (b)address, (c) phone number, (d) e-mail address, (e)university ID number, (f) title of your essay (g) course for which the essay was written and the professor who taught the course, and (h) indicate whether you are an undergraduate English major, minor, or a graduate student at CSU.

Address your essays and cover sheet to: Professor Zach Hutchins, Department of English, Campus Delivery 1773, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1773.  Submissions can also be dropped off at the English Department Office on the third floor of Eddy.

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  • Dan Beachy-Quick has a group of essays from A Quiet Book in the new Copper Nickel.
  • On Saturday February 25th, Camille Dungy will be the Keynote Speaker at the Robinson Jeffers Society Annual Meeting at Occidental College. Her talk is titled: “The View From Hawk Tower Today: A Contemporary Environmental Poet Reflects on What Robinson Jeffers Has Meant to Her.” https://www.oxy.edu/oxy-arts/projects-exhibitions/visiting-artists
  • The opening reception for the CSU Art and Science exhibition is this coming Tuesday, Feb 21 from 4:30 to 6:30 pm at the Curfman gallery in the Lory Student Center. Beth Lechleitner’s collaborative poetry/visual art piece “Mettle” has been is included.  The show runs through March 24.
  • Dana Masden’s short story “Exercise, A Good Book, and a Cup of Tea” is published in the Fall 2016 issue of Third Coast.
  • Mary Ellen Sanger (Associate Director, Community Literacy Center) won second place in the North Street Book Prize contest for her book, “Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison.” This account of her unjust imprisonment in Mexico centers on stories of solidarity and community with the women she met inside. https://winningwriters.com/past-winning-entries/blackbirds-in-the-pomegranate-tree
  • Alex Morrison’s short story, “Life Along the Fault Line,” is available in print in the Winter 2017 issue of The Cardiff Review. 
  • Catie Young’s poem “Hollow Bone” was recently published by Public Pool. You can read it here: http://www.publicpool.org/dope/cl-young/
  • Aby Kaupang was recently asked by the Lincoln Center and the Fort Collins Museum of Art to participate in the Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate exhibit by writing poems and reading them at the opening reception. Her poems can be found mounted in the lobby at FoCoMoA or online through Essay Press’ Radio Radio 11.8.16.
  • Steven Schwartz’s story “The Bad Guest” has been accepted by Ploughshares and will appear in the Winter 2017/18 issue.

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CSU Ethnic Studies Assistant Professor Ray Black gave the charge to the marchers in Old Town for the MLK Day March.

CSU Ethnic Studies Assistant Professor Ray Black gave the charge to the marchers in Old Town for the MLK Day March, (image source: SOURCE).

  • Harrison Candelaria Fletcher had a couple of lyric essays accepted for publication over the break: “Coyote Crossword” in Permafrost and “Conjugation” in Uproot. He was also profiled in High Country News http://www.hcn.org/articles/harrison-candelaria-fletcher-uncommon-westerner
  • Sue Doe’s co-authored article with Mary Pilgrim and Jessica Gehrtz, “Stories and Explanations in the Introductory Calculus Classroom: A Study of WLT as a Teaching and Learning Intervention,” Volume 27 of The WAC Journal, is now viewable at: http://wac.colostate.edu/journal/vol27/doe.pdf
  • Camille Dungy is included on a list of 11 Poets Every 20-Something Should Be Reading. “Coming so close to a recent decidedly not-20-something birthday, I am deeply gratified to have made this list on Bustle.com.” https://www.bustle.com/p/11-poets-every-20-something-should-be-reading-28280
  • The Community Literacy Center welcomes Shelley Curry, Sarah van Nostrand, Lizzy Temte, and Alina Lugo as spring 2017 interns.
  • Kristina Quynn presented in two sessions at the 2017 Modern Language Association Conference in Philadelphia. She presented on “Engaged Reading and Criticism” in a special session about “Feminism, Pedagogy, and the New Modernist Studies.” This session and presentation connects with the MLA Teaching Approaches collection on Modernist Women’s Writing, which is forthcoming 2018. Kristina also organized and presented on a panel about “Narratives of Contingency: Unsettling Trends in the New Academic Novel.” Her paper was titled, “Mimetic Drudgery, Magic Realism, and the New Academic Novel.”
  • Shoaib Alam’s short story “Wonderland” from his master’s thesis will appear in May/June issue of The Kenyon Review’s KROnline. Alam is back in his hometown, Dhaka, Bangladesh, working with the Teach For All network partner there, Teach For Bangladesh, on partnership development.

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Winter lights in Old Town Fort Collins, image by Jill Salahub

Winter lights in Old Town Fort Collins, image by Jill Salahub

  • Harrison Candelaria Fletcher has been named one of “The Top Ten New Latino Writers to Watch (and Read) for 2017” by the by LatinoStories.com literary website. http://latinostories.com/Top_Ten_Lists/top_10_authors.htm. The recognition was based on feedback from editors, faculty, librarians and readers. Also, a section from his book, Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams, was just nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize from Autumn House Press. Lastly, a new essay, “Outline Toward an Essay on Ethnicity and Miracles,” from a collection in progress, was accepted for publication by the University of Alaska’s hybrid journal, Permafrost.
  • Matthew Cooperman is pleased to report that Aby Kaupang is recovering nicely from back surgery (a discectomy; three weeks now), feeling stronger each day and remembering the joy of walking. Matthew and Aby are also pleased to report that their long-running collaborative project NOS (disorder, not otherwise specified) has been accepted by Futurepoem, a NYC press. A portion of the manuscript appeared last year as an electronic chapbook called disorder 299.00, from Essay Press. It can be found here, http://www.essaypress.org/ep-52/ A recent review of that chapbook is now up at Rain Taxi, http://www.raintaxi.com/disorder-299-00/
  • Our own Camille Dungy will be reading the names at Commencement on Saturday, January 17 at 7:30 p.m. Several faculty are already coming to the ceremony, but please join them If you want to hear Camille and recognize the graduates from our department. Senior Tim Cuevas will carry in the English banner. Thank you, Tim and Camille!
  • Kudos to Nancy Henke and Beth Lechleitner, who led a third fantastic year of the Finals Friends extravaganza. With the extra time and effort they gave, faculty had something special to look forward to in their mailboxes this week last week of classes. If you participated, thank Beth and Nancy next time you see them for this bright, cheerful reminder of how much we enjoy and appreciate each other.
  • Mike Palmquist presented a talk on writing across the curriculum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on November 9th. He followed the talk with a day-long workshop the following day.
  • Mary Crow’s translations of lines by Roberto Juarroz were published in “Versailles: Aesthetics of the Ephemeral” by Christine Buci-Glucksmann; July, 2016. Catalog for the Exhibit: Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfall. Versailles, France. (7 June – 30 Oct. 2016)

CSU Writing Center

The CSU Writing Center will have limited hours during finals week. We will be open Monday, December 12 and Tuesday, December 13 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Eddy Hall, room 23. We will be closed during the break, and will reopen on Monday, January 23.

Eddy 300 Lab

The Eddy 300 Lab hours for finals week: Monday –Thursday 7:30-8:00pm

Friday 7:30-4:00pm. We will be closed for winter break from Saturday, December  17th  and return on Tuesday, January 17th.

greyrockreview

Greyrock Review: Get your work published!

Fiction: 5,000 word limit, format should be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Galibri fonts. Two pieces of your best work may be submitted.

Nonfiction: 5,000 word limit, format should be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Calibri fonts. Two pieces of your best work may be submitted.

Poetry: Up to 5 poems may be submitted, each poem should be placed on a separate page in a single document. If poems have a visual formatting component, please use Adobe PDF files. Otherwise, Word (.doc files) are preferred.

Visual Arts: Any visual art form is accepted, excluding video. Please photography your work and submit digitally. 300 dpi and CMYK colored .TIFF file is preferred.

For more information please visit http://greyrockreview.colostate.edu or email Baleigh Greene at bmgreene@rams.colostate.edu

 

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~from intern Joyce Bohling

Francisco Leal and Silvia Soler

Francisco Leal and Silvia Soler

Francisco Leal and Silvia Soler, both professors in CSU’s Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, are trying to do something they themselves describe as “impossible”: to translate the work of CSU poets into Spanish, including Camille Dungy, Sasha Steensen, Dan Beachy-Quick, and Professor Emeritus Mary Crow. In fact, they’re planning to publish a book of their translations in spring of 2017.

Dr. Leal, whose academic work focuses primarily on contemporary Latin American poetry and who writes his own original poetry, was inspired to start a project of this nature shortly after he came to CSU and read the work of the aforementioned CSU poets. Dr. Soler, an assistant professor with an emphasis in translation and interpretation, was invited to join the project when she came to CSU in fall of 2015.

They have also garnered help from interested undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, as well as those in other departments, such as the Department of English.

I first found out about their monumental task when I enrolled in LGEN 545: Literary Translation in Theory and Practice, for the fall semester. In the course, the students, who speak four different languages (Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese) are almost all working on translating poems by different CSU poets. Students have the option to submit their translations to be included in the upcoming publication.

Earlier this autumn, I sat down with Dr. Leal and Dr. Soler for an interview to find out more about the project: its hardships, its joys, and what faculty and students in the English department might like to know about it.

The most challenging part of the translation process, the two professors say, is transferring what Dr. Leal called “the invisible poetry” from one poem to another. “I think it’s the detail—that invisible part that’s hard to explain or identify that is moving poetry to poetry, not only word to word”: in other words, not just the literal meaning of the words themselves, but the complex web of symbolism, cultural significance, style, appearance, sound, and in some cases, strict structural constraints.

Dr. Soler was amused by the words “invisible poetry.” “That’s the poet’s explanation,” she teased. “I would never say that.”

“I would say that the most challenging part of translating Sasha and Camille’s poetry—especially Sasha’s—is that it’s very concise. She tries to convey different layers of meaning in very few words.”

Both translators also mentioned the difficulty of identifying and understanding allusions in U.S. poets’ work, both literary and cultural, as both come from other cultures: Dr. Soler from Spain and Dr. Leal from Chile.

“It’s sometimes more difficult for non-natives of this [American] culture…to identify those allusions,” said Dr. Soler. “That has been mentioned by many different writers and scholars in translation studies as one of the main difficulties in literary translation—in any text, but specifically literary translation—when you are evoking or referring to a different literary work or just some cultural or historical event, or just some connotations at the semantic level from a specific culture that we don’t find in dictionaries, of course. We have to use our background knowledge, and if we lack that background knowledge, then we are missing that layer of meaning.”

But what is a challenge, Dr. Leal said, can also be a joy. “When you see that [invisible poetry] moving into a different language, it’s extremely rewarding….I think it goes both ways; what is challenging is also a motivation.”

The two translators emphasized how rewarding it has been to get to work on this project collaboratively, with each other and with the authors of the poems they are translating. Dr. Leal is first and foremost a writer, although he dabbled in some poetry translation prior to meeting Dr. Soler and learning more about the methods, theories, and terminology used by professional translators. “How she can make a translation for me is always magic,” he said.

Dr. Soler, on the other hand, had never had the opportunity to work directly with the author of a literary work before coming to CSU.

The professors of Spanish found the poets from the English department to be quite open to having their work translated, which, Dr. Soler said, came as a bit of a surprise; she had expected more resistance. “You are a writer, an author, and you know that somebody’s going to try to interpret what you wanted to convey. I’m not an author, but I think I understand that it’s kind of difficult to not know what is going to be done with your words, feelings, emotions, ideas.” She said she finds the poets—Camille Dungy, Sasha Steensen, Dan Beachy-Quick, and Mary Crow—“amazing” in their willingness to let their work be translated.

Although Dr. Soler stressed that literary translation is not “necessary” in the same way that, for instance, translation of court documents is necessary for someone who doesn’t speak a country’s official language, it still has tremendous benefit.

“It’s just so important, I think, if we want to build healthier and better human communities. And this, to me, means that once you try to think about the world—other humans, and not just other humans but other beings—from different perspectives, and when you have access to other perspectives from which people look at the world, your mind changes. In a good way. It becomes more open and able to accept diversity, which is the basis of healthier, more respectful human communities.”

Dr. Leal agreed that translation can help us understand others from different cultures and with different perspectives, but he also emphasized that it can simultaneously remind us how much we have in common. For instance, in the course I’m currently taking, we read a number of translations of a poem by the eighth century Chinese poet Wang Wei. Because of translation, Dr. Leal said, “it’s not only that we are able to enjoy that poem, but that poem can talk to you straightforward.”

It’s “excellent proof that we all live in one big planet.”

Dr. Soler and Dr. Leal would be thrilled to have more students and faculty from the English department take a literary translation class with them, get involved with translating for their upcoming publication, or both. Collaboration between the English department and the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, they stressed, is very enriching for students and faculty in both programs.

They wished to re-assure students in the English department that one need not be fluent in a language in order to translate from or into that language. “The more you know, the better, but that doesn’t mean you have to be native-speaker level in two languages in order to do translation, necessarily,” said Dr. Leal.

Dr. Soler agreed. “It is important the bilingual competence is always there–no one can say that it’s not important—but…translation is much more than the bilingual competence or the bicultural competence….You are trained in the different methods and strategies and concepts that you need to be aware of, and that helps you start to build your competence as a translator. If you’re able to explain why you do what you are doing, and you’re also aware of the problems that you’re having with the language, the culture, or whatever, that makes you a translator.”

I certainly have gotten a lot out of the literary translation course, even though I’m not fluent in German. Although I was a German minor as an undergraduate, I certainly don’t speak, read or write at a level I would need to translate professionally. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to learn so much from the course about the nuanced differences between languages and found many resources for learning more about German beyond just a bilingual dictionary. It’s also been, as the professors pointed out, an enriching opportunity to get to know students from the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and hear their unique thoughts and perspectives.

Although no translation classes are being offered next semester, Dr. Soler plans to continue offering courses in a variety of kinds of translation, such as film translation. She and Dr. Leal are also happy to hear from anyone in the English department interested in knowing more about their ongoing translation project.

“800-TRANSLATE is the phone number. Call collect!” joked Dr. Leal.

 

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