House Inspections (Lannan Translations Selection Series)
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And the way great writers use language is beautiful and mysterious, regardless of whether there are 5 million potential readers, as with Danish, or close to a billion, as with English if one counts non-native speakers. If some future Shakespeare happens to write a masterwork in Danish, he or she will certainly depend on a great translator to get the word out.
So nothing about the Danish language and Danish literature has ever felt small to me besides the inherent cap on its potential readership. And that smallness, of course, is part of what justifies my work as a translator. You feel lucky to have found this work, and motivated by the realization that no one else knows it yet.
But that small audience says nothing about the equally vast possibilities of the language in the hands of someone like Nordbrandt.
I love all of that, and get a kick out of being able to watch Danish TV on Netflix though I also get distracted by the inevitable differences between the Danish audio and the subtitles! Does that kind of mass-market attention do anything for my book of translations from Nordbrandt? Transtromer was for a long time Exhibit A when I was asked about translating from Danish, and he featured prominently in my pitch letters to publishers!
That said, the downside is that this makes it less likely that Nordbrandt, or any other Nordic writer, will win in the near future. The fact that the prize is itself Nordic, and awarded by a Swedish and Norwegian committee, means, I think, that there is a real risk of overlooking Nordic writers, since any committee choosing a Nordic winner could be charged with some kind of home team bias. As a result, I was delighted to hear that Transtromer finally won, and also feared that it meant my book of Nordbrandt poems would never go flying however briefly off the shelves after a Nobel announcement.
At times it feels like the mainstream press has attention for exactly one such writer at a time: for the past decade it was Stieg Larsson in fiction, and for a long time it has been Tomas Transtromer in poetry. The interest has always been there.
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And why is that so? Why this unlikely connection with Nordic writers? Given that Denmark is a relatively very small country, we have already noted that it has been particularly strong in opening up its literature to a readership here in the States.
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We connect with writing from Scandinavia, in part, because Denmark, Sweden, and all the rest have made a place for writers in their countries. These countries take care of their artists. As the BBC claims of Iceland, the arts play a central role in the national identity, and that investment manifests later in the way these books gain wider and wider readerships in other lands.
America claims more writers and-significantly-writing programs in which the student funds herself, but at the federal level our support of writers pales in comparison. NB : Both of you are highly-accomplished, award-winning poets. Could you each speak a bit about the relationship you see between your own poetry and the poetry that you translate?
DK : The engine that fuels my continuing to write is an obsessive, unrelenting tension between traditional form and its abandonment. His subjects, too, signal certain familiar tones in me. I think Wagner and I are probably more naturally attuned in the way we see the world. But the Danish poet Nielsen has changed my work dramatically—perhaps for the very reason that he and I see things differently—and it was through his influence that I began writing poems in prose around I have now done two books of prose poems.
My passage into and through the unconscious, a kind of death world, has transformed me musically and spiritually. It was through the work with Nielsen that my subject matter began to widen and my sense of what was possible in a poem, minus the safety net of any kind of accentual or accentual syllabic structure, began to evolve, grow up. I support translation as an act of generosity in which the ego is thrust out of the way. The happy side effect of this work, undeniably, is that it forces us to go back to our own poems with a heightened sense of possibility.
I just read a poem in which C. No further?
New American Translations Series
End of World? I first tried my hand at translation in imitation of my early heroes, who I noticed all worked as translators: from Ben Jonson and Ezra Pound to Donald Justice and Deborah Digges. Receive updates on our latest ventures, exclusive essays from our editors, discount offers, and more, direct to your email. Join us for an evening in celebration of David Keplinger's latest collection of poetry, Another City.
House Inspections : Carsten Rene Nielsen :
Eliot Prize. In he produced By and By , an album of eleven songs based on the poetry of his great-great grandfather, a Civil War veteran. His work has been included in numerous anthologies in the United States, as well as in China and Northern Ireland, and he has taught at the universities of Ostrava Czech Republic and Kosice Slovakia as well as in the summer creative writing institute at John Cabot University in Rome. His areas of interest include contemporary American poetry, European poetry and poetics in the twentieth century, poetic meter and form, creative writing pedagogy, translation and artistic collaboration, and the poetry of witness with emphases on the American Civil War, the poets of World War I, and Holocaust literature.
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A former United Nations press officer and current Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, Laird Hunt is the author of 8 novels, a collection of stories and two book-length translations from the French. She also works as a freelance writer in Lexington, Kentucky. For audio files of previous visiting writers click here. David Keplinger is a poet and translator. He has also received the T. Marilynne Robinson is the recipient of a National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama, for "her grace and intelligence in writing.