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Eddie Tay (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

On Boutique Multiculturalisms, Mistranslations and theInability to Translate: Poetry from Singapore and Malaysia

The postcolonial nation-states of Singapore and Malaysia have in the 1970s and 1980s normalized domestic ethnic differences so as to engender what has been called "boutique multiculturalisms". Hence, in poems participating in the respective nationalist imaginaries, we see an inability to translate. This has the effect of domesticating cultural differences under the rubric of the nation-state, with the result that the poems are ideologically compromised. The first part of this paper has at its core the premise that to translate is to participate in a cultural dialogism borne out of diaspora and transnationalism. If to translate is to submit oneself to a dialogical process in the Bakhtinian sense, then the inability to translate demonstrates an allegiance to the national monologic. The second part of this paper is the result of a reflexive struggle between a scholarly-critical engagement with and a poetic-serendipitous meditation on the mistranslations of Tang dynasty poetry. It makes the point that in multicultural societies, translations are not enough, for translations as end-products veil the dialogical process of translating. Instead, it might be more productive to draw attention to the limits of translations and to foreground translated poems as unfinished or, to use Bakhtin's term, unfinalizable. Apart from my own poetic mistranslations, this part of my paper also looks at mistranslations in the recent work of other Singaporean as well as Malaysian poets.

Eddie TAY teaches the reading and writing of poetry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests are in the area of Anglophone literatures of Singapore and Malaysia. His two poetry collections, Remnants and A Lover's Soliloquy, consist of his original poems as well as mistranslations of Li Shangyin, Li Po, Tu Fu and Li Ho.

Steven and Maja Teref (Columbia College, Chicago and Roosevelt High School, Chicago)

Chasing the Mockerator: The Translatability of Novica Tadic

The process of translating the poetry of Novica Tadic, a contemporary Serbian poet following in the lineage of Vasko Popa, will be discussed by primarily examining Tadic's Kezila cycle. This grouping showcases a gallery of self-propagating creatures, the kezila, arising from the speaker's distorted image. For example, some of these monsters take the shape of grave-desecrating insects, ominous kitchenware and grinning fruit. How does the translator make sense of these images when they come in the form of eccentric diction, wrenched syntax, nightmarish imagery and obscure cultural references? The Tadic neologism kezilo (in singular), translated as both the "maker of faces" and "mockerator," marks only the beginning of the rocky road for the intrepid translator. One of the translator's tasks is to transport the images and ideas from the source into the target language, so that the final product does not sound like a translation but is attuned to the ear of an English speaker. How does one avoid fossilizing in the interlanguage, honor the original work, and navigate other practical dilemmas? Our collaborative project will offer a number of possible solutions to these questions.

Steven Teref received his M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia College Chicago and his B.A. in English Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Slavic Studies. He studied Serbian with notable Serbian linguist Biljana Sljivic-Simsic at UIC. His co-translations of Novica Tadic have appeared in numerous U.S. periodicals, such as, New American Writing, Action Yes, Black Clock and Court Green, in addition to essays on Yugoslav poets in Companion to World Poetry, 1900 to the Present (Facts on File). He currently teaches at Columbia College Chicago. Maja Teref received her B.A. in English Studies from Belgrade University, Serbia. She then worked as a translator and newscaster in the English Department at Radio Yugoslavia in Belgrade before coming to the United States to pursue her M.A. in Applied Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She currently teaches College Prep English and English as a Second Language at Roosevelt High School and Truman College in Chicago and is the Tech Chair for IL TESOL (Illinois Teachers of English as a Second Language) (www.itbe.org). Her co-translations of Novica Tadic have appeared in numerous U.S. periodicals, such as, Absinthe: New European Writing, 6x6, Parthenon West Review, and are forthcoming in Dirty Goat. Steven and Maja were recently nominated for a Pushcart prize for their translation of one of Tadic's poems.

Diane Thiel (University of New Mexico)

Translating Twists and Turns

What kinds of difficult choices must a translator of poetry make? Octavio Paz says one must "free the signs into circulation" before translating as art. This paper will present numerous difficulties I have faced in the translation of Greek writers Nikos Kavadias and Alexis Stamatis, as well as some examples from translating Sor Juana and Alfonsina Storni, among other writers. While translation overcomes the differences between one language and another, it also reveals them more fully. Examples will focus, in particular, on translating poetry that has tight rhyme and meter, and what challenges this presents. Additionally, this presentation will address the issues that arise when writing one's own poetry about experiences that occurred in another language. As writers, we are always engaged in an act of translation--translating experience into words. But numerous other challenges arise when the re-imagined setting, dialogue, etc. involve yet another level of translation. This presentation will address these varied concerns, offer ways of using translation in the classroom, and present my own experiences translating.

Diane Thiel is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction and creative writing pedagogy: Echolocations (Nicholas Roerich Prize), Writing Your Rhythm, The White Horse: A Colombian Journey, Resistance Fantasies, Crossroads: Creative Writing Exercises in Four Genres, Open Roads: Exercises in Writing Poetry, and Winding Roads: Exercises in Writing Creative Nonfiction. Thiel's translation of Alexis Stamatis's American Fugue (a project that received a 2007 NEA International Literature Award) is forthcoming in 2008 from Etruscan Press. Her work appears in many journals including Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Sewanee Review, Best American Poetry 1999, and is re-printed in over 30 major anthologies. A recipient of numerous awards including the Robert Frost and Robinson Jeffers Awards, and a recent Fulbright Scholar, she is Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico.