Strategies for Time Management

This is my seventeenth year of schooling, and I like to think that at this point I have learned some tools of the trade. 🙂 Over the years I have experimented with a few different ways of managing my schedule, which I have outlined in order that my experience might help people who are struggling with their own turbulent schedules.

1. Bullet Journal

The only thing that kept my sophomore year of college in any sort of order was my bullet journal. This particular strategy is most effective for those that function better with analog methods than any sort of technology. The website hyperlinked above can explain with more detail, but a bullet journal is essentially a notebook that helps you keep track of both long term and short term goals. One can buy the fancy and tailored notebooks that the creators of the bullet journal sell, but I personally used a simple purple moleskin from my college bookstore. A bullet journal is catered to the needs of the user. I personally used mine to keep track of my homework, my paid work, commitments for clubs and organizations that I participated in, as well as fitness and food tracking. With my bullet journal I was able to keep up with my daily and monthly goals, and in addition to its practice uses in my behavior tracking, I could use it to take notes in class when I forgot my normal notebook, or even just personal writing that came to me in a given moment.

“Talia, wait” I can hear you asking “If you liked using this bullet journal system so much, why did you stop?”

My sophomore year of college ended abruptly, as mono, combined with multiple concussions, meant that I could not participate in my classes properly, and had to end the semester early. Stuck in an incoherent haze, there were a few months of my life where I couldn’t do much more than sleep and listen to audio books. Once I finally recovered it was summer, and while I was taking one class, as well as finishing up the courses I had to take an incomplete on before I could start my junior year, I simply didn’t have the energy to restart my bullet journal again. That summer was one in which I was particularly worn out, still recovering from my concussion, and while I muddled through, I haven’t used the same method of bullet journaling since.

2. Digital Note-taking (OneNote, Evernote, or Similar)

When I stopped using my bullet journal, I didn’t stop using physical notebooks (see section four) But I did up my digital note-taking game. My favorite application for digital note-taking is Microsoft’s OneNote. Using OneNote without the Office 365 subscription, limits its functionality, though I am not sure how much since I do have a subscription and didn’t start using it until I added the student discounted plan to my computer. If one can afford to get the Office suite, I recommend it, and if not, that’s OK, because there are other digital note-taking services out there. Before I got a Office subscription I used Evernote, which has a tiered system, but Evernote Basic is free of charge and usable. I used Evernote before I got the Office Subscription for OneNote, and I never had any serious problems with it. Evernote has similar features to OneNote,, but the basic (free) account limits how many devices you can install Evernote on to two, which wouldn’t work for me since I use OneNote on both of my computers, my tablet, and my phone. Evernote basic also limits offline access to desktop only, which is not ideal since it means that if one was in a dead zone without Wi-Fi the application wouldn’t work.

The great thing about OneNote (and Evernote) is that you can divide the app in to separate notebooks, which are individually stored on the cloud, so while they are all completely accessible online, some can be removed from the computer, tablet, or phone to save space, but still within reach with Wi-Fi. I typically create a new notebook each semester to keep track of classwork and current projects, with a separate section for each class and each short-term personal project. I also keep a master to-do list, bullet journal style. OneNote is the application that I use to save draft emails, keep track of long-term assignments, as well as writing projects. In fact, Word-for-Sense even has a whole notebook dedicated to it. That said, one thing that I don’t use OneNote for is daily, weekly, and monthly agenda tracking for which I use…

3. Google Calendar (Or Similar)

Free with a Google account, Google calendar is my go-to for when I want to keep track of a doctor’s appointment, track when I’ve made lunch or meeting plans, and especially when I block out time for studying. Just as important as putting in what time I have to be in the classroom is scheduling what time I need to be in the library. An important part of making sure that my time is used wisely is knowing when and where I am going to be and what I am going to be doing there. For example, I do my best to schedule at least an hour of Latin practice every day, because with languages, especially in the beginning, memorizing and internalizing the basics is crucial. At the same time, I know that in addition to my school and professional work, I need to have a creative outlet and so a minimum of 15 minutes a day is spent on a creative writing project, even if it is just adding a paragraph or two to a blog post like this one. All that said, leaving wiggle room is also important, and while planning is crucial, setting aside a couple hours a week where one has time to themselves is also essential.

4. Physical Agenda

While I no longer bullet journal, I do make sure that I have a physical journal, because there are some places in life that a computer or phone is either impractical or prohibited. For example, over the eight semesters I spent in undergrad, I can count on one hand with fingers left over how many professors did not appear somewhere on the spectrum between snarky comments about texting during class and outright banning the use of electronic devices in their classrooms. A physical agenda is the easiest way to keep track of what homework assignments are due when, and marking one days of the month I have an exam, presentation, or paper due. Keeping track of those is very important. There was one semester where on a particular day I had a test, an essay due, and a short story due all on the same day. Since I knew ahead of time, I was able to negotiate with my professors to shift the due date of my essay and short story, and thus I gave myself more breathing room in terms of what I was focusing on each day.

5. Not Sleeping

This is a bad idea. Even though it worked when I was younger, ever since my concussion I need seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and I have to say that I’m more productive when I do get my rest. That said, if one does insist on not sleeping a full night, I recommend the following:

6. In Bed Early, Out of Bed Early

Some people are night owls, and I respect that. I used to be one too. That said, I was astonished when I realized how much I can get done in the wee hours, not by staying up into them, but by going to bed as early as nine, and waking up as early as one or two. Staying up for an extra two hours, I could maybe get fifty, sixty pages of reading done and perhaps a two or three paragraphs of an essay. Waking up two hours early, that would be more like a hundred pages of reading and at least five more paragraphs.

Conclusion

I hope that my listing some of these key strategies that I employ will be helpful, and if anyone would like further advice or assistance, as I noted before, helping people with their problems helps me with mine, so feel free to comment or send me a message through the contact form.

Cheers,

Talia

 

P.S. For those who may want tutorials on study skills in general, I suggest watching and internalizing the Crash Course Study Skills videos, and especially as it pertains to this post, their episode about Planning & Organization, which I watched about a year ago and while most of what I have talked about here was stuff I already knew, the video undoubtedly shaped some of the ideas in this post, for all that I had not watched it again until after I finished writing this.

On Academic Intersections: Knowledge Stacks

One of my favorite things about taking multiple classes in different disciplines is how everything still manages to link up in ways that I did not expect. A large part of why I chose the Comparative Humanities program is because throughout my time at Brandeis I have noticed and enjoyed these intersections, and so as a graduate student, and to some extent I did this even as an undergraduate, I seek out these intersections and do my best to think about them critically.

An example of how I did this last semester is that my final paper for my Queer Readings course was about how three different translations of the myth of Iphis and Ianthe, each translated in distinct centuries, represented the queer themes of the story. I could not have done this were it not for my previous readings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in both my Classical Mythology course and Classical Myths course, which each used a different translation of the text. I found myself further qualified to talk about comparative translation from the Literary Translation course that I had taken in a previous semester. I would have found myself more qualified if I had taken Latin the semester before writing this essay, rather than the semester after, but so it goes.[1]

 As another example, I do not think that I could have written my essay on Dante’s representations of Limbo and Paradise for my Modernity course last semester were it not for the course I took on Hell, the afterlife, and poetry in my junior year. I could go on, but my point is that at some point or another, every class that I have taken at Brandeis has informed at least one other class, creating what I strongly believe to be a richer experience.

Two weeks into my career as a graduate student, I am finding that even in the short time since the semester has started my classes are already starting to connect. My course on Witchcraft and Magic, for example, at first glance might not seem at all connected with Millennial Latin American Fiction for someone who is not familiar with either topic, but in actuality our readings on the theories of magic and its connection to religion and science are very much informing my fiction course, due to the fact that much of what we have been studying is magical realism, and in fact the first text we are reading for the class is titled El mago  (The Magician) by César Aira, which, as one might imagine, is about a magician.

My courses of study at Brandeis also inform my general interests outside of the classroom and vice versa. As readers of this blog well know, I enjoy writing book reviews, and thus I enjoy reading books. One of the great things about reading broadly is that I get to engage with topics and perspectives that I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience. Each book that I read varies in a multitude of ways, but a common factor is that in reading diversely I often come in to contact with vocabulary that I then need to add to my personal lexicon. I’ve always said that my life would be easier if I learned Latin, and even with having just attended four Latin classes and read two chapters of the textbook, I’ve already lost count of the amount of times that I have found use in understanding vocabulary that would have confused me not even a month ago. That said, what I find amusing is how my previous knowledge of what may seem like extraneous vocabulary is doing the reverse, in that I am remembering my Latin vocab better because I know English words that are derived from the Latin originals that I am currently studying.

In a similar vein, my personal interest in mythographic and pagan traditions has led me to being prepared for my Magic and Witchcraft class, as even though I have not studied Mesopotamia with much depth, I am familiar with how to approach this field of study. What little I did know about Mesopotamia prior to this class is enhanced by having taken a course a couple years ago regarding the Ancient Silk Road. That particular course, in conjunction with my Historical Linguistics course and my general interest in languages, enabled me to grasp with greater clarity my readings which discuss the translation of the ancient mesopotamian texts, as well as appreciate the difficulty in doing so.[2]

I suppose what I am ultimately saying here is that knowledge stacks. I could not be in the place that I am today were it not for all that has happened in my past, and while my four years as an undergrad were tough, I do feel that they, and all the years of schooling I had before then, have prepared me for my current environment as best they could. If you’ll excuse me, that environment includes reading a whole bunch, so I’d best be off working through my to be read pile.

Happy Friday!

Cheers,

Talia

[1] I am not unaware that this would have been a better point had I studied Latin earlier in my life but, alas, this is but one of the many reasons why I have frequently stated that my life would be easier if I knew Latin.

[2] If any of y’all are interested in how deciphering dead languages can add to historical knowledge you might also be interested in reading my essay about how the discovery of Tocharian languages has contributed to historians’ understanding of some of the migrations and changes throughout the Silk Road.

On Writing About Harry Potter

It is with regret that I tell you all that I do not have a book review for this week. The book that I was so excited to write about is lost in the chaos that is my half-unpacked bedroom and I didn’t have time to finish it by my Thursday night deadline, a combination of physical therapy, work, and travel getting in my way. In lieu of a proper book review, I would like to discuss my favorite book series, Harry Potter.

Writing about Harry Potter is difficult these days. Things were much more straightforward when we only had the seven books, but with the advent of Pottermore, what is and isn’t canon has become more and more of a question. In the beginning, I tried to keep up, but recently I have been more of an advocate for returning to the original seven texts whenever I am in any sort of doubt.

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I’m not sure that I would pay them to stop, but I do think that the situation has gotten slightly out of hand.

When I write about Harry Potter, I try to stick to the main text as my base of evidence, though I will admit to a certain amount of cherry-picking when it comes to the extended Harry Potter universe. The fact of the matter is that I had to come up with a system, because I do tend to spend a great deal of my time thinking and writing about Harry Potter.

One of my primary missions while I was in college (other than simply graduating) was to make sure that every semester I made a significant Harry Potter reference in at least one of my graded assignments every semester. I am pleased to say that I succeeded, and my final Harry Potter essay was worth 60% of my grade in the last class I needed to complete my major. I’m quite proud of this paper, which I worked on with no small amount of dedication (as anyone who had an essay worth 60% of their grade would) which is why I posted it on this site in the first place. The paper is concerned with the representation of fate and free will and agency as a concept in the Harry Potter universe, and is very much tailored to the religious philosophy that predated modernity, which was the primary focus of that class. If you would like to read the entire essay you can do so here, though I recommend setting some time aside to do so, since it is on the longer side.

While I wrote many papers about Harry Potter during my undergraduate career at Brandeis, the only other one that I felt was worth posting is an essay that I wrote for my Introduction to Global Literature course, which I took spring of my sophomore year. The essay compares how morality is conveyed via fantastic literature versus how it is conveyed in realistic literature, contrasting the Harry Potter series with Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. If you would like to read that essay you can find it here, and I do promise that it is shorter than the other one, having a different length requirement and being worth a much smaller portion of the grade – 20% I believe, but I’m too lazy to track down my old syllabus.

I’m considering digging up some of my older Harry Potter essays that I wrote back in middle/ early high school, when I felt the pain that many teenagers feel of the world having turned its back on me, which is when I turned to the Harry Potter series. Depending on how much I agree or disagree with the thoughts of my former self – not to mention my former self’s attention to grammar – I might end up posting them, or at least my revised commentary on them.

In any case, don’t expect this to be the last discussion of Harry Potter on this blog, and tune in next week for mystery topic on Tuesday and a guaranteed book review on Friday.

Cheers,

Talia

A General Update

They say that time flies, but I didn’t quite believe it until I woke up this morning and realized that we’re already halfway through July. So much has happened in my life in the past few months that I feel as though I’ve got whiplash. So many good and bad things have happened since I graduated college a little over two months ago.

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Our engagement rings!

I can confidently say that the happiest news is that my girlfriend is no longer my girlfriend because she is now my fiancée. 😊 That said, it is a bittersweet happiness, since it comes on the heels of the death of my aunt Malika, who I continue to love even though she is no longer with us.

Meanwhile, I am still in the process of unpacking from my big move, and my toaster continues to be evasive, but I will find it eventually. 🕵🏾‍♀️ I suspect that it and the waffle iron are conspiring to stay hidden together.

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time working. Especially since due to a series of events I’m not going to talk about on the internet my hours for my internship have increased. So I am spending more time at the office than I was earlier in the summer.

As the school year inches closer and closer I am both nervous and excited. The excitement comes from my usual source of anticipation when it comes to the fall, the start of a new semester. The nervousness comes from the fact that a significant portion of the people that made Brandeis home for the past few years will be gone, as only a handful of my fellows from the undergraduate class of 2018 are staying for graduate studies at the university. I’m not overly worried about the rigor of classes, since I have been taking graduate level courses since my freshman year and specifically took some as a graduate student my senior year, but I will miss my friends. Those of you who subscribe to this website can expect to see some of the contents of what I am studying as I full intend to discuss what projects I am working on through this website.

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My library before I organized it aka proof that I have plenty of books to write about 😎

For those of you looking for more book reviews, don’t fret! I’m still reading and writing about it afterwards, and I’m quite excited to write my review for Friday as I quite like this book! No spoilers about which one it is though.

In any case, I’m about to catch a train so I must bid you adieu!

Cheers,

Talia

We Cannot Be the Land of the Free When Children are in Cages

I try to stay away from politics on the Internet but I refuse to stay silent on this. I am disgusted and dismayed what is happening in our country right now. I’ve always been skeptical of calling the United States “the land of the free” but it is absolutely not the case that we can call ourselves that when children are locked in cages. There is no defending this. What is happening is absolutely despicable, but I refuse to be disheartened because I know that we can fight this. There are so many resources out there if only we use them.

One of my friends on Facebook shared this slate article about how we can fight family separation at the border. It includes a short introduction with explanations of the policies that have lead to these atrocities, and follows with a continually updated list of organizations that are doing what they can to improve the situation and ultimately stop this from happening. It includes where lawyers and people with law experience can help, where translators are needed, places to donate, volunteer, and protest.

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I took a screenshot of this post by Lena Waithe (who I follow on Instagram) since it has information on how to contract congress regarding SB 3036.

My friend Seamus also made a post about his reaction to the situation on his blog here.

Rest in Peace, Malika Franks

At 6:45am this morning, June 9th 2018, my great aunt Malika died. I call her my great aunt not just because she was the sister of my grandmother, but also because she was a great person, to me, my mother, and so many others. She was incredibly kind, loving, and giving. In our last conversation she told me that as soon as she was out of hospice she would be getting started on making my wedding dress for me. It wasn’t something that I had given much thought to, since I don’t plan on getting married at the age of twenty-two[1], but the pain cut through me, because at only 69 years young, there should have been plenty of time for her to make me a dress for when I do get married at some point in the future.

Malika was an excellent seamstress, and upon thinking about it I never would have considered anyone else as a viable candidate for making me a dress. She used to make all sorts of little dresses for my dolls, and one year she even made me my own “Princess Talia” costume.

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Princess Talia with her aunt Malika, October 1st 2002.

Disney hadn’t developed any black princesses yet when I was in the first grade, and so with Malika’s help, I became my own princess. The costume was incredibly detailed, and so soft. It even had detachable puffy sleeves, to account for October not being the most consistent month in terms of temperature. Bright pink and drenched in glitter, it was exactly what I needed in a time before the world properly started to acknowledge that black is beautiful.

No matter what I needed, Malika was always there to support me, and I do not think I could be where I am in my life without her. I know that she was suffering, and that she is in a better place now, but I still miss her so much. She had so much to offer the world, which can be such a dark and harsh place. One of our brightest stars was indelibly dimmed.

I love you auntie. Rest in peace, and give cousin all Anthony our love.

Talia

[1] I know that some people do get married this young, which is fine for them, but isn’t what I want for myself.

Adulting

This post originated as a personal essay written for my Creative Nonfiction course in Spring of 2017.

The Tale of Celeste

I want you to think about a young girl named Celeste. She is your typical high school senior, and recently accepted to her college of choice. She went to the admitted students day, submitted her deposit, got a towel with new university’s name stitched  on it, and is now confronted with the idea of class placement. Every student must take an introductory writing course their freshman year, and according to most sources everyone hates it. The only prerequisite to the course is a composition class, and to test out of it requires completion of a timed essay. Celeste has always excelled on essays, but only because she revises them with the dedication of a cat with a mouse.

This is the little-acknowledged super power of children: they care allowed to make mistakes. Not submitting an essay on time in high school is frowned upon, but is easily made up for. But if Celeste doesn’t finish this essay within 60 minutes, she will have to take a whole extra course her freshman year that will ripple all the way through her college courses and beyond. It is quite possibly one of the most important essays she will ever write.

At this moment, Celeste realizes that she is an adult and needs to get things done and no one is going to do it for her, which will rattle most sheltered 17-year-olds. Hunching in on herself, she starts the essay, and with 20 minutes to spare it’s submitted. She passes with flying colors and her mother asks why she was ever worried.

The Child that Becomes a Woman

Thus, ends the tale of Celeste. Its purpose was to suggest that there is a point in one’s life where a fundamental switch is flipped. Celeste didn’t instantly become a responsible forward-thinking, committed individual who never put off something she shouldn’t have. But she wasn’t quite the child she had been either.

It’s difficult to talk about the differences between childhood and adulthood, because there are arbitrary lines that are hard to cross completely. Look at life as divided into slices. A person must act a certain way in each slice with repercussions if they step out of line.  Go to preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, steady job, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, death. This version of the ‘American Dream’ is a falsity, and I have known this from my birth. Many people have different visions for how they live their lives, but there is always a cycle and a way to find yourself. To look at it another way: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?”

Anxiety

The thing is, once I get out into the world, I can get things done and in fact I’m quite productive. Apparently, most people consider me well balanced and for some reason think I’ve got all my ducks in a row, got all my shit together. What people don’t seem to realize is that I am a chaotic mess. Every night when I get home and get ready for bed I am consumed by irrational anxiety. The only thing worse than this is the fact that when I tell people this they ask me why I’m so anxious. I point them towards the word irrational.  Why it is so hard to understand that I don’t know why I feel this way? It is for the most part unexplainable. The issue here is my own inability to recognize my own limitations until I break them and I break down. My ducks are not in a row. They are in trench warfare against themselves and the trenches are full of shit.

Example A:

“Hey love, how was your day?”

“I had a great day, woke up at a reasonable hour after getting 10 hours of sleep and got work done and turned in my assignments and my meeting with my advisor went super well.”

Cue me bursting into tears.
Example B:

“If you’re so anxious why do you waste time by calling me and crying instead of doing your work? Pull it together.”

This makes me cry more.

Even writing this makes me even more anxious. I tend to write about nothing but my anxiety, but this makes me more anxious and then I don’t have anything to write about so I write about what is bothering me but then that makes me feel worse not better because it’s all a vicious cycle. I’m shaking.

The thing about irrational anxiety is that you never know that it is coming. I woke up feeling sleepy, but mostly refreshed, and I could slowly wake myself up as I gathered my bearings. Before my eyes were even opened the sensation of being awake started to dawn on me. There was a pillow squashed on my back. I was facing the wall. For one brief and warm second I dared to dream that I was in my childhood home. I opened my eyes and saw my dorm room. A sigh. I don’t remember what my dream was about, and I know it was a nightmare and filled with uneasy thoughts and feelings, but I want to go back to sleep anyway.

I don’t.

Agency

It is a truth universally acknowledged that children in want of adulthood no longer want it when they get there. Parents tend to prevent their kids from gorging on candy and staying up late. As an adult, I can eat candy all day and stay up late. But I don’t want to. Personally, I’d like to be asleep by 10pm and wake up early so that I have time for breakfast, a run, and be able to make my bed in the morning before I leave for class or work.

Obviously my 8th grade self is disgusted.

That is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of nights where I stayed up late, took care of drunk people, was a drunk person, and drank enough caffeinated beverages that my blood was on the verge of turning into energy drinks and I became a 2am regular at the C Store after closing out the library. Most of that is in the past now, as I have started a nice little love affair with sleep and hot tea.

 Living Alone

I used to live alone. And as anyone who has ever lived alone can tell you, that left me with very little accountability.

I could go to sleep whenever I wanted, eat whatever I wanted, and have sex as loud as I wanted, none of it mattered to anyone but me. I went days without seeing another human, and if I forgot my shampoo before going to take a shower I didn’t have to bother putting a towel on. I didn’t have to do dishes until I ran out of spoons and if the salad I made the week before was fermenting in the fridge there was no one to call me out on it. No one could verify whether I had showered and/or did laundry because febreeze exists. If I decided to gorge myself on ice cream without taking any lactose pills, well there was no one to complain about the stink in the bathroom but my own squashed little nose.

I have a roommate again now, so this whole accountability thing has escalated.

Read: any dirty dishes stay in my room until I get sick of them.

 On Being Human

Due to the fact that I try my best to be human (most of the time) I have set myself some ground rules:

1. Clean dishes within 24 hours of getting them dirty. More dishes can be added to the general horde, but they each have an individual 24-hour limit.

2. No dirty underwear on the floor. Jeans and sweatshirts, whatever, but dirty underwear is forbidden. (So is clean underwear, but why would anyone keep that on the floor?)

3. Keep a maximum of 48 hours in between showers. If you forget the last time you showered, flee to the bathroom immediately. Semantics problem sets can wait, you stink.

4. If you decide to stay home all day and retreat from all outside world action get dressed anyway. It can be pajamas, but they must be clean (or at least different from the pajamas you slept in). Walking around naked is also acceptable, but keep a robe handy for surprise video calls.

4.1 On a related note, make bare minimum contact with the outside world. Texting, Skype, an actual phone call, or owls, whatever works, just make sure you engage with minimum two other humans.

5. Eat. Eat at least one vegetable, and one source of protein. Yes, lean cuisine can count. If you are feeling fancy you can even put it inside a real bowl instead of simply eating out of the plastic. (Then again that may contribute to rule 1, so perhaps not.)

Follow these rules and I daresay you will be successful at passing yourself off as a capital H “Human.”

 Looking Back

Almost everyone can find something in their past that makes them turn their head. Something done, said, unfinished, unsaid. Did I say I hated Harry Potter? Why did I write Jasper Hale’s name on five different binder clips? Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?

You’re not going to remember everything that has ever happened to you. Memories are imperfect, and a mystery. I remember being in elementary school, and asking my mum if she remembered people from her elementary school. It seemed unfathomable to me that she could forget people she saw every day for so many years. But even as I look back on that and think that I only remember a handful of kids from back then, and that’s mostly just the ones that pissed me off.

 You’re Never As Prepared As You Want To Be

The hardest part of adulting is keeping up with the pace of it all. Life comes at you hard and fast. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes less so. Often, I get the sensation that I’m a step behind where I need to be, constantly discovering things that are great to know, but two years or two minutes after I needed to know them. That said, it’ll always work out until it doesn’t because that’s just what life does. It goes on until it stops and I love every birthday.

Statistics show that those who have the most live the longest.

 

Falling in love…

… with books.

Ever since I learned how to read, I loved it. There was something about that turning of the page, that dark text on paper, the curves of A to the sharpness of Z, as soon as I learned how it was the only thing I wanted to do. I was that awkward person in the corner of the party who would rather read about friendships than have them. That isn’t to say that I never had friends, I just tended to like my books a little bit better. My childhood was definitely one of a reading nerd.

All this is very well and good, right up until I started University. To jump topics, my very first day at Middlebury this summer my professor for Oral and Written Spanish said this about our coursework: “No es difícil, es mucho.” Now I’m not sure I agree; for one thing quantity preludes difficulty, but I digress. The thing about college is that there is so much to do, every second of every day there is a new experience, or at least an essay due at midnight and late-night cookie deliveries. I spent the eve of my 19th birthday writing an essay, and when I finished at 3am I went to brush my teeth and noticed the entire hall had signed a happy birthday poster that was written in Harry Potter font using a purple Sharpie.

In my cultures class at Middlebury we spoke about “La Movida Madrileña” and my professor quoted someone (I don’t remember who it was) saying that in Spain no one slept, because there was so much that they had the liberty to do once Franco’s regime had ended. Brandeis isn’t exactly recently-liberated Spain, but I still never sleep.

All this is to say, I am a busy individual. Reading, which got my whole life was an escape, somehow became a chore. As a Comparative Literature major with minors in creative writing and classical studies I’ve had to read a lot. Even my other major, linguistics, for all that it is a science has had a hefty amount of reading. Once I finish that Literature essay at 3 am the only thing I want to do is brush my teeth and sleep, not pick up another book.

Feeling this way hasn’t been comfortable to me, and for all that I enjoy college in that small way I haven’t been happy in the thing that I love.

Thankfully, my love in reading has been rekindled once more, but it’s not with Harry Potter this time, it’s with Isabel Allende. The book was “Eva Luna” (in the original Spanish of course; I wasn’t allowed English this summer) that reminded me that reading is fun and I’m happy to have had my experience at Middlebury, because I’ve fallen in love with reading again, and that’s wonderful.

On Poetry and Translation

I think that poetry is a beautiful and important part of our history. Poetry allows us to express our thoughts and feelings in a therapeutic and elegant way. Poetry is important because it presents a way for people to connect with one another in with deeper expression than with prose. For me, the most important part of the poem is the flow. The form of expression can be just as important as the content when considering a poem whether you are writing it yourself or it is a work of translation. The form should match the content, because the tonality of the work can be utterly changed with format.

Take for example, the Irish folk song Green Fields of France. I am a firm believer that music is a vivid form of poetry, and this song is no exception. There are many versions, but my two favorites are both by The High Kings. In one, the song has a slow and graceful melody, that makes it a quite beautiful and meaningful song. The other version is no less meaningful, but has an upbeat tempo that makes the song bigger and more enthusiastic. Both takes on the poetry of this song are quite lovely, but the first time I heard them I didn’t even realize they were the same song until I examined the lyrics.

From this we can understand that tone and flow are some of the most important parts of a poem, and yet they are also malleable, depending on who composes the piece. Everyone writes poetry differently because poetry is a reflection. For some that means a reflection of the self, or of an experience, or of knowledge that the poet is comfortable with. My poetry contains my thoughts and hopes and dreams, and I make my own mark with everything I write.

Here is when I fully turn to translation, that delicate art. Aside from authors and poets who translate their own works, the translator is taking up someone else’s voice, and changing it into another tongue. The translation is a different entity from the original, because it requires a leap of faith towards oneself and one’s abilities to reimagine the work in a new context. In his essay An Act of Imagination Philip Boehm notes that “what allows us to summon a new creation from the original and give it a life of its own is our empathetic imagination.”[1] So when I translate a poem, I am not only shaping the words through varying amounts of linguistic prowess, but also putting myself and my imagined consciousness into the poem.

That said, every time I look at a poem that I have translated, or even more so poems I have written myself, there is always something I want to change. The poem is always forming itself, even as I go back to it again and again. During my independent study last semester, I was hesitant to share my poems with the professor because I never felt like what I had done was enough, and I was revising right up until hours before my selected poems were due. Maybe I was overdoing it a wee bit, but honestly, I don’t feel like I was.

Tomorrow I head off to Middlebury’s 3rd Annual Bread Loaf Translators’ conference, and I couldn’t be more excited. In preparation for my workshop I have been reading through The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Language in Translation as was directed by my workshop leader, Idra Novey. We only had to read part I, but I read all four because I’m a nerd and translation is my passion. Also, because I read ahead whenever possible, and sometimes even when it shouldn’t be. I already quoted one of the essays, but let me quote another. In Pierre Joris’ A More Complex Occasion he speaks quite a bit about poetry and translation, and one quote speaks out to me:

[W]hat many years of practicing (and thinking about) poetry and translation have lead me to is a sense that the often-stated difference in nature between the supposedly pure and unalterable ‘original’ poem and an always secondary ‘impure’ poem is much exaggerated. […] A poem is […] a variable thing: the poet’s hand-written poem is not the ‘same’ poem when first published in a magazine, which in turn is ever slightly different when published in a volume, then a selected collection, and later in a posthumous collected volume. The poet’s public readings of the poem, its being set to music by a composer, its translation into one or ten or however many languages ― all these events do change a poem, enriching it, making it into a more complex occasion.

If we acknowledge the poem to be such a mutable complex of occasions, then nothing is more translatable, nothing demands multiple translations more than a poem ― and nothing enriches the poem more than being translated.[2]

I realize that is a very long quote, so I’m going to stop this post here, giving you just a little food for thought.

Cheers,
Talia

Slower version: Green Fields of France
Fast-paced version: The Green Fields Of France

Sources

[1] Boehm, Philip. “An Act of Imagination.” In The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Language in Translation, 27. Washington DC: National Endowment for the Arts, 2014. https://www.arts.gov/publications/art-empathy-celebrating-literature-translation

[2] Joris, Pierre. “A More Complex Occasion.” In The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Language in Translation, 68-69. Washington DC: National Endowment for the Arts, 2014. https://www.arts.gov/publications/art-empathy-celebrating-literature-translation

Feeling Thankful

I received some exciting news yesterday. I have been admitted to the Master of Arts Program in Comparative Humanities (B.A./M.A. Program for Brandeis Undergraduates) for the 2018-2019 academic year. This is an amazing opportunity for me, and I am very excited for it. The fact that I got into a graduate school program before I finished undergrad is astonishing for me.

Honestly, I never thought I would get this far in life, but I have, and I’m happy here. Imposter Syndrome is real, and although I sometimes have it, I have also realized that I am qualified, and I can do the things that I aspire to. Now that I have come this far, I’m starting to think of ways to give back. I have had so much support from my family, friends, professors, colleagues and more. I know that I would not be here without them. As I look towards my future, I am considering the best ways that I can contribute to the community that I rose from, and how to help other communities grow. If anyone has suggestions, or knows about meaningful causes I’d like to hear about them.

The Weapon we have is love.

Cheers,
Talia