Monday, April 27, 2009

A Translation Success

"A Translation Experiment" happened at Hugo House on Saturday 25 April. It was a WPA event co-sponsored by Richard Hugo House and I was its creative director. The idea was to give the audience one poem in various forms --dance, movement, voice, flowers and visual art -- and have them write it again in English. Five artists were asked to translate this one poem into their own medium and then it was performed live, in those forms. After watching it all, the audience was asked to consider carefully, to take notes and work at its meaning.

Gene Frogge, a fantastic local photographer, has a smugmug page full of gorgeous, richly textured images from the day - workshops, open mic and setting up the main stage. Many thanks to Gene!!


Can a poem move between genres and hold its message? What kinds of translation are worth while? Where does translation stop and interpretation begin? How is it that I receive the message of a poem? Can seeing the same thing, provoke the same response in us?

We started with an hour of poetry in languages. Languages included Mandarin, Hebrew, French, Japanese, German, Nahuatl and Spanish. Adela, above, read a poem in Spanish by Rafael Alberti.

We got the audience in the mood by offering them poetry as rhythm, by asking them to listen for the poetry of a given language and just to enjoy it.


Shhhhh! It's the secret source poem. In a prescribed meeting place, one month before the show, the featured artists met to choose a poem. They discussed their choices for a bit and made their decision. It was unanimous. Then, over the next month, Christian Swenson, Linden Ontjes, Keely Isaak Meehan, Barbara Anne Allin and Horatio Cordero considered the poem. Now, having seen their polished and provocative translations, it is without a doubt they put every effort into it.

What came out was a five-side, sumptuous, vivid, true-to-the-poem original.

A poem drawn into dimensions. With facets. Something infused. And experienced.

And there in the background, a flay of tulips, a squirrel's nest, a floral translation.

In a secret gallery that opened out of the darkness on stage left, just before the close of the experiment, came one final image, this one drawn by a 5-year-old boy living on Cape Cod. Horatio. A young poet of merit whose work should not be overlooked. Horatio offered his own translation of the secret source poem, full of the same matter, yet made with younger tools. Horatio's work made a wonderful complement to the four that went before. It was unique and familiar, serious and humorous, bright and dark. Hooray Horatio!


A pre-show Translation Panel was moderated by Dave Jarecki.

Panelists included Zachary Schomburg, Debby Watt, Lyn Coffin, Vanessa Dewolf and Andrea Lingenfelter.

At the and of the evening, audience members were invited to bring their translations forward to become part of a glass assemblage made by Clinton Bliss. At the exit doors, all those departing were handed wax-sealed envelopes containing the secret source poem and instructions to "receive these words well."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this time. Thank you Mimi!!


3:37 PM  

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