Bread Loaf 2017 Part III: Evaluations

I have made a couple posts about the emotional and professional impact that Bread Loaf 2017 has had on me, but I also realize that I have missed out on describing the event in detail. I welcome you to now peruse the responses I put on the official evaluation form last week.

What did you like about the workshop?

I liked that the workshop had a mix of different genres. While I workshopped poetry for this workshop, the fact that other people translated prose had an impact on me, because I can take that back when I translate my own prose. And yet there is more to it than that. I think the fact that we had a mixed genre gave us different views about to approach our translations, and while I say it has been helpful for me, I hope that it was also helpful for others. The group was accepting and warm, but also one that could give meaningful feedback that was carefully construed. The fact that we were a mix of languages too helped us immensely. As a firm believer in the idea that languages teach you how to think in diverse ways, it was a joy to work with people who all had such different thoughts in their heads.

What about the workshop might have been better?

I would have liked to have more time with the people in my workshop. I feel that it is a talented group of people to work with, and yet we had so little time with one another we didn’t quite get into the swing of things where we were comfortable enough to express ourselves in a way that I think caused a disadvantage towards the others. I think we could also benefit from something that another workshop group in Orion that I heard about where everyone had to read and comment a minimum of one sentence about each member’s piece so that we could be on common ground. Another thing that my workshop and I talked about is the idea of everyone writing an accompaniment to our pieces describing what the touchstones are and what we think about our works and our writers.

  • ways for us to articulate what the traction was for the piece
  • explain what the project means to the translator, and to the literary world.
  • what we are hoping to discuss about the piece
  • what we know we don’t know.

Which lectures did you attend, and where they useful?

Unfortunately, I was ill for a portion of the conference and the only lecture I attended was Idra Novey’s “Writing While Translating.” I thought that this lecture was fantastic. After having gone to this lecture I gained a much better sense of self and sense of comfort in the idea that I am both a writer and a translator. Her advice also about switching genres and going from translation to our own work has allowed me to conceptualize the fact that I don’t need to compartmentalize the different sides of myself.

Which classes/talks/panels did you attend, and were they useful?

I attended the panel “On Publishing Literary Translation” with Elaina Ellis, Tynan Kogane, Fiona McCrae, and Michael Z. Wise which I thought gave a great deal of useful advice for the publication of books in translation, but I feel left a gap in terms of what journal publishing is like, which Idra stressed to us as also being equally if not more important.

Contrastively I loved the talk “Contracts and Copyright.” with Chad W. Post because I feel that it filled in many of the gaps left by the panel, and the systematic way that he broke everything down for us was both instructive and insightful, and he took to heart what the audience had to say and what they wanted to know, which is the same case with the panel, however that was a little less organized since they thought they would have a moderator and without one everyone in the room was caught a bit off-guard I think, which set the tone a bit lower than it otherwise might have been.

The class I went to, “Translation Heresies” was excellent for many reasons, but mostly because Christopher Merrill has such a vibrant presence it would be hard not to enjoy a class put on by him. The way that he talked about translating languages one does not know was fascinating, and has inspired me to try the same in the future once I have a more stable career and a project that I am truly engaged in.

What did you think of the Bread Loafer Readings?

I absolutely adored these readings. Hearing so many voices, from the translators’ conference and Orion both together was an amazing experience because these fields may seem distant, but when 18 people each go up and share what they have to say it both brings in a focus and tells us all that we are much more similar than we might think. I did a reading, and while I do have some experience with public speaking I still found myself shaking and suffering from imposter syndrome something fierce because how could I compare to the amazing things other people have done and said? But after I spoke and the readings that day were done I had people tell me that they liked the job I had done with my translation and poem and throughout the days after people were talking about my work, each time reassuring me that I had a place in this community.

How were your editor meetings?

My editor meetings were excellent! I had an individual meeting with Michael Z. Wise, and while I am early on in my project he gave me a great deal of advice as to how to advance my work on Sor Juana beyond just writing my thesis and how I can build myself up as someone just now starting in the field, and overall, he was very helpful, being that he not only had knowledge but was also supportive and friendly.

My group meeting was with Chad W. Post and he went into much more detail than at the talk (previously discussed above) telling us about his work and how our work can be built up. He showed interest in everyone’s projects and in helping us move forward with them, taking time to speak with all of us equally and with sharp ideas.

Please comment on the special programing, such as the bird walks, music night, and Frost picnic.

I did not go to any of these events, because I slept in most days until breakfast, went to bed early the night we had music and since the rescheduled Frost Picnic occurred during one of my editor meetings I did not go.

What did you think about the food, dining room, and kitchen?

Everything about them was fabulous. The food was not only superb, but their willingness to work with dietary restrictions was unparalleled when compared to eating anywhere but my own home, and the cooking was far above my skill level. The staff and chefs were all kind and helpful, and truly delightful people all-around. The dining room was spotless, despite all the people who were there and the kitchen was very sanitary. I thought overall it was the best I have eaten in a while. I also appreciate the ready availability of water and other beverages.

Did the Wi-Fi work for you? If not, what problems did you encounter?

Yes, however as a college student I was using eduroam, as opposed to what the rest of the conference was working with.

Where did you stay, and how were your accommodations?

I stayed in the inn itself, and it was a very convenient and comfortable location, especially since it rained many times and I didn’t need to get caught in it to get breakfast. The room was consistently a comfortable temperature, the sheets were clean, blankets and towels were soft, I had no complaints. I additionally found that the key codes on the doors were genius because it meant that if I remembered the numbers I never needed to worry about locking myself out.

Please comment on the stock in the Bread Loaf bookstore. Did you find what you needed? Are there items you would suggest adding?

I only went once, and if was a quick browse. The stock was interesting, but I had very little money so I didn’t buy anything but a snicker’s bar.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the shared campus. What was your experience like sharing the campus with BL Orion?

I loved the shared campus atmosphere. The back and forth between the two conferences as we explored our similarities and our differences was excellent because the slightly shifted perspective allowed us all to learn from one another.

How was the communication leading up to the conference? Do you have any comments for us on the handbook, editor sign-up, and manuscript packet mailings?

I thought that it all covered things well, apart from the fact that we did not get as detailed instructions about what to present with our works and what the works of others would be like since it was not necessarily standardized. As a tiny detail, I think that when the manuscripts are all complied into one PDF there should be an over-arching set of page numbers beyond the individual pieces to make it easier to get on the same page when discussing a work.

How did you hear about the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference (if you could include some detail here, that would be great)?

I heard about Bread Loaf via a notice in the Comparative Literature and Culture Listserv at Brandeis University. Since I am the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for the program I pay a great deal of attention to everything that gets sent out.

Please list any translation and/or writing groups or organizations in the U.S. or abroad that you belong to or recommend that we get in touch with to help spread the word about the conference.

I am not participating in any other translation writing groups or organizations, it is however my focus of interest at Brandeis University towards both my BA and MA degrees.

What social media do you use most often?

It is a split between Tumblr, blogger, LinkedIn and Facebook. My personal blog is hosted on both Tumblr and blogger. Meanwhile I also use Facebook and LinkedIn regularly, and Instagram and twitter a little less so. I have a snapchat, but I almost never use it.

Would you recommend the conference to a friend?

Yes! I think anyone with an interest in translation would love this conference.

Please take a moment to add any additional comments or suggestions?

There are a few things I would like to suggest for the future:

  1. Include more people who work with Asian languages, as well as more people who work with indigenous languages to widen the discussion of translation between differing languages and cultures beyond the western world. There were a fair few at this conference, however not as many as those who worked with French or Spanish (including myself). The amount of people working with Spanish outnumbered Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Czech, Danish, Galician, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Norwegian, Russian, Urdu and Yiddish combined. Note that some of those people were in both that language and Spanish, but I am trying to prove a point here. Not that I want you to stop admitting people for Spanish, because that’s my language, but I’m just putting it out there.
  2. Have people who are editors for journals just as represented and advertised as those for book publishing, as well as similar events.
  3. A bigger window for breakfast, at least in terms of continental bagels or cereal.
  4. Less exclusively late-night events. Some people must retire earlier than others, especially those with medical issues.
  5. An informal yet scheduled time for peer workshopping, possibly by language and cross-workshops.
  6. It seems short to only have 4 days of workshop to get to know and share with the group, so a longer time frame for the conference would be advantageous.
  7. Some light classes or talks about translation theory for those in manuscript workshops who are doing less theoretical work as compared to the introductory workshops.
  8. Discussions of how to choose a good writer and how to identify a project worth publishing. 

So there you have it, my full evaluation of Bread Loaf. I hope that you enjoyed my critique of this awesome place.



Bread Loaf 2017 Part II

I meant to have this post out last Friday, but since I spent most of Friday morning in a car, and my posts now come out at noon, that seemed a little impractical. And I didn’t want to rush this. Last Friday was the last day of the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference. Even so, I wrote the beginning of this post on Thursday night, which was the last full day of the conference.

As I wrote the original beginning of this post, I sat in the Barn, which has been the main social location for the conference. True, I probably should’ve been socializing instead of writing, but as far as things typical to my life go, I have much more experience with the latter than the former, but I try to overcome that tendency

Socializing went reasonably well, and when the time came to have dinner I wasn’t exactly sure what I could eat, so I sat down with a glass of wine and my notebook until I found some people to sit with. That said, you don’t want a blow by blow, so I’ll just say we had peanut butter chocolate pie and it was good.

The dinner was a bit fancier than our others, what with the wine and all, but as our last one together it was nice. We’ve built a great community here at Bread Loaf, and I feel greatly connected to all the friends I have made, and thanks to social media it seems I’ll even be able to stay connected.

From Bread Loaf I have gotten more than just book recommendations and publishing tips, I’ve made friendships and gotten life advice and generally have had a grand old time. This was a great learning experience for me, and I’m so glad that I made such meaningful connections.

I’ve learned what it means to have found my narrative twin, learned more about my work, seen the great work of others, and heard beautiful poetry and prose that has made me understand that there is suffering, but also beauty in the world and I truly feel that together we can make a change. But this blog isn’t a soap box, and I don’t want to get too emotional, so here are the top 5 things I have learned and had reinforced over the course of this conference.

1. Understand the emotional heartbeat of your piece

2. Translate the author that is right for you

3. Create a dialogue between translator/author/work

4. Tell the stories you want told

5. Translate for the love of translating

As two bonus economical tips, 1. make sure you know who has the rights to your piece and 2. don’t sign a work-for-hire contract. I’ve gotten much more out of this conference than I could put in a single post, but I don’t want this to go too long. Thanks to everyone who was at the conference who made it such a great atmosphere, and thanks especially to my workshop leader Idra Novey for guiding us all so well!



P.S. It rained for most of the conference, but we had a couple days where we workshopped in the sun when it finally came out!

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Bread Loaf 2017 Part I

Hi All! This week I am at the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference, and it has been great so far. The workshops have been quite fruitful, as there is so much talent among the people I have worked with, and as is the nature of workshops I have learned as much from working with others on their texts as I have when getting feedback on my own work. Seeing the scope of approaches that others take has been an eye opener for me.
As an additional bonus that we have in the translators’ conference is that the Bread Loaf Orion Conference is being held co-currently, and so we are getting to hear from other people in an adjacent field. There are Bread Loafer readings every few days, and they are great because we are getting to hear from not only people reading translations, but the original works of people from the Orion conference. I myself read one of my poems at a reading yesterday.
I admit that I was scared to go up to that podium. Not so much because of the public speaking, which I’ve had some experience with, so the nerves weren’t too bad on that front. No, my issue was with what I was saying. My translations of Sor Juana’s work are like my babies. I’ve put a strong effort into every one of them, and I’m proud of how far they have come. That said, a workshop is a workshop and 90% of the time that one gets workshopped they end up wanting to spend the next few hours gutting everything. A translation workshop is a bit different than an original writing workshop, because I can’t gut a translation like I can gut a short story that has an over-extended peanut metaphor. So seeing as how I finished getting workshopped at 12:30, immediately went to lunch and then attended a lecture, I actually only had an hour and a half.
I think I made it work. This certainly isn’t the best I have ever done, but I’m proud of myself for having done so. In fact, as I had a little extra time left, once I finished reading the translation I read a short original poem that I wrote for a workshop a few years ago. I won’t share it here, because I hope to have it published in a poem collection someday. If it ever is, I’ll update this post with a link. 😘



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.


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


[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.

[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.

Rant on Technique

Finding a way to translate has been difficult for me. Leaving aside all the theory of it ― metalanguage, ethics, religion, the hermeneutic motion, politics, feminism, gender, eurocentrism, questions of fidelity, identity, foreignization, word-for-word, sense-for-sense ― I could go on, but I won’t because that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about where and how I do my translations. I know it might seem strange, but harder than grasping theory or prioritizing source text vs. target text or wrapping my mind around the idea of rights towards an author I struggle with finding a method towards the physicality. It took me far more time than I wanted to spend to discover whether I preferred typing my translations directly, or writing them by hand. Over the course of a semester and a quarter I realized I preferred by hand ― at least at the outset. Following this, I had to discover what type of by hand I wanted, and honestly, I’m still not sure.

Currently all I have really established is that I prefer writing the base translation in some sort of notebook, typing that by hand, printing it out, and writing on it again. Here is where it gets messy though, because after a while I run out of space on the page and transition to writing it by hand, but I can’t decide whether writing in a journal or on a legal pad is better, and then I struggle with at what point do I type things up again, because typos are really annoying and cause mistranslations on a scale that is quite frankly covered in malignant slime. I once negated a positive and somehow wrote ‘perfection’ for ‘copia’ which is just flat out wrong. Turns out I wrote ‘reflection’ and misspelled it and autocorrect took things into its own hands.

Speaking of autocorrect, until I learned how to turn off the auto-capitalization function on OneNote and Word, every time I tried to write a poem, or even just type a completed poem up, resulted in auto-capitalizing every enjambment and while I love my computer I tended to get the urge to throw it against the wall. Fortunately, I restrained myself, and dug deep into settings to root out the source of the problem. OneNote Options → Proofing → Autocorrect Options, you’re my fav.

I digress, my point is that before I can even process what I’m doing, I need to find a process. The way things are going tends to work, but it also tends to make me want to light my papers on fire when I can’t find the right one. Luckily, I don’t actually have anger issues, I just like euphemisms. Even if this isn’t the most efficient way, I’m still producing content, so I’m just gonna keep going the way I’m going until I find a better way.



Thoughts on Translation

When working on my translations I had trouble with the translation in terms of how to convey both the beauty and the message of the poem, which was difficult for me at first just from reading the Spanish, as Sor Juana uses syntax in ways that, as someone who is very familiar with, but not fluent in the language I struggle. It makes sense of course, because in English we also use complex syntax in poetry, but the difference here I feel is that the languages change syntax in slightly different ways. Sor Juana’s poetry contains many reflexive verbs, and because the third person and formal second person overlap greatly, I have to make judgement calls on who the poem is referring to in the context of the sentence. The verb forms are difficult because of this, and I have always had trouble with reflexive verbs, which compounds the problem. Furthermore, the poems often leave out a subject, or reference a subject that was in a previous line or stanza, and so keeping track of the persons can be difficult for me, especially since I am not a native speaker.

Another struggle I have with this poetry is that the poems do not have titles, and so I am in an ambiguous position in terms of creating one or sticking with just a number. The question of whether or not to title the poems is a conflict for me, because while I may wish to title the poems as my own, I wonder whether doing so would be claiming too much of what isn’t necessarily mine.

This of course comes back to the question of whether the translated work belongs to the translator, or the original creator. Then I wonder what Sor Juana would think about my translations, and I wonder again whether it is fair to change the words of someone long-dead.

Where is the line? Have I crossed it or am I just not there yet? Will I ever get there?

Or is it a line that doesn’t exist except in my mind?

These are questions that I think deserve further thought. I hesitate to say that the author is dead – especially as I am a creator of original works in addition to being a translator. So basically I’m not even sure what I think. I just have a lot of thoughts in a lot of places, and grappling with them is probably something I will be doing for a long time.

End of Translation

From Jacques Lezra’s End of Translation:

“The question of how humanists  make the case for the value of  their disciplines to others […] is a  matter, it is understood, of  translation.”

Translation and politics are intimately linked in the view of this paper and he notes that translation is a “master term” when discussing the understanding of the Humanities and their current state, and the place they hold in a society in which they are dwindling.

I am a Comparative Literature major, and our program is very small. In addition to the fact that the humanities are dwindling, we have a firm requirement of taking upper level courses in a language other than English. This tends to scare people away from the program, which is unfortunate because it is a great one (I’ll admit, I’m biased as the Undergraduate Departmental Representative of the major!)

As someone who is very passionate about language, culture and communication I am always startled when I come across people who aren’t because to me language is one of, if not the most essential ways that we communicate with one another and I believe that we should be encouraging multilingualism because with different languages come different ways of thinking, and everyone can benefit from that. I’m not saying that language learning is something that everyone needs to do (I know that for some people it is an impossibility) but rather that widening our gazes into other ways of life is essential towards looking at each other deeply and complexly, and being multilingual can help with that.

At the very least, I believe that one should study other cultures and traditions, even if only from a monolingual standpoint, in order to gain a mutual understanding with others on this earth. In the wake of this, translation, in all its complexity, is made even more necessary. Not only do we have to translate the words, but sometimes even concepts.

People sometimes argue nature vs. nurture. Whatever one might believe, it is indubitable that where we grow affects how we do so. There is no denying there is inequality in this world, and as my Mythology Professor pointed said the other day in class – despite what we tell our children not everyone can do everything they set out to in life, and many people are born into this world who are at a crippling disadvantage. Some crosses are too hard to bear. Looking at the world like this can be bleak, but it is a reality. And I seriously doubt that we can ever fully grasp the realities of others without humanities and without translation.

In the same essay referenced before, End of Translation, Lezra speaks about rights and asks whether they are “translatable across cultures, languages, races, religions  in the name, or under the aegis, of a purportedly universal  standard which is also a universal  translating machine: ‘Human’  rights?” This is a startling question, and one I cannot possibly answer in a blog post. I will leave you with this question and encourage you to read the essay in full.*

I hope that readers of this blog enjoy my musings, because while I’ll write them anyway, it’s fun to see what other people think.



*Jacques Lezra, End of Translation