Tag: poetry

“Translation and Retranslation”: A Conversation between Roja Chamankar & Emily Beyda

illustrations by Jade Fusco (DMZL)

Mainstream English language publishers are notoriously myopic when it comes to reading and printing literature in translation. For the most part, our canonical translations are centuries old, and not taken directly from the original text, but are rewritings of rewritings of rewritings, a sort of intergenerational game of telephone. I was interested in taking a look at this process of translation and retranslation by working with Roja, a friend of a friend who just happened to be a fantastic poet in her own right, to co-translate the work of Farooq Farokhzad, a writer whose work had been important in Roja’s life and development as a poet. Together, we hoped to examine the structures of thought and meaning that lay beneath the surface of translation work. What values do we (intentionally or unintentionally) impose on translated language? How does a line, a whole poem, shift to accommodate the systems of meaning hidden in the language it is translated into? How does it preserve the values or responses of the language it is translated from? As we worked, in a series of meetings in a series of libraries, where we lent our heads together and whispered about word choice, we talked about language, culture, and identity, the magic that the process of translation can have, and the way that words delineate the spaces our thoughts fill, creating different interior selves in each of our different tongues. Those conversations gradually grew into Suspended Whispers, a book of Roja’s poems that the two of us worked together to translate from Persian to French (our shared language) and then into English, and, in time, the email conversation excerpted here:

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