Tag Archives: poetry

Artistic community and collaboration: Joy Sullivan, Artist-in-Residence at the Wexner

Miami MA alum Joy Sullivan is the 2015 Artist-in-Residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. She shares her experience:

In 2012, I attended Miami University’s MA program in Creative Writing and spent two years growing into the identity of “poet.” This year, at age twenty-nine, I inhabited the role of artist-in-residence for the Wexner Center Pages Program and found poetry to be just as expansive as I always hoped it would be in the world outside of a graduate program.

The Wexner Center Pages Program is a multidisciplinary program that fosters creativity, arts-integration and writing projects inside the classroom. Foremost, it is a unique collaboration between the Wexner Center, local high schools, and teaching-artists. As the 2015 artist-in-residence for Pages, I had the pleasure of visiting high schools and helping students cultivate interest, craft responses, and engage in vibrant conversation surrounding art.

One of the highlights of my experience was working with Pages students on collaborative poetry. This exercise was originally inspired by an activity done in one of my graduate workshops at Miami. I asked students to view a similar object and then together build a poem, line by line. I often asked students to generate questions in this process. Then, we listened to the conversation that was being built as we circled the room offering our responses. I loved watching the sense of ownership and authorship bloom as students took time to ask, listen, answer, and then ask better. The investment students felt in this communal experience became palpable.

Through these activities, I’ve witnessed a change come over each classroom’s attitude towards the experience of poetry. It became meaningful, exciting, and relevant to their shared experience. Asia, a student from Westerville North, said, “This feels just like an awesome mash-up between Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. We’re good at this.” Another student undid me with herunspecified-7 gorgeous line, “I have no simplicity.” Time and time again, through Pages, I watched words win. This experience showed me how deeply essential arts-integration, creative writing, and personal expression remain in education and in the lives of our young people. Simply put, my work this year has been transformative, hearty, life-giving.

I believe in the spirit of Pages and how much I feel revitalized by my experience. How I know it will shape and propel me towards seeking points of entry in my future endeavors that are risky, beautiful, unexpected. Arts-integration is good work. Moreover, it is necessary. For all of us.

 

You can visit pages at http://www.wexarts.org or find their blog here.

Miami Alumni Return for National Poetry Day

Sitting in the audience of the Alumni Poets Reading this past Thursday evening, I had the honor of listening to two very different poets read their original works. Listening to a poet read their own work is a wonderful way to begin to understand their writing – the movement is particular, and the exquisiteness of images, metaphors, and chosen words is communicated best by their creator.

The first alum to read w10-8 Hardyas Lesley Hardy, reading from her first book of poetry, Dreaming of Zeus. Hardy completed her undergraduate studies at Miami and went on to live in Tokyo for several years where she taught English and consulted for senior management in a large Japanese communications group company and in a Swiss luxury brand operating in Tokyo. Her past with
writing has been extensive and vast in range. She has written scripts, historical fiction, and short stories, some set in a university town in Ohio during various decades of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Dreaming of Zeus was published by Isobar Press, a Japanese press that specializes in English writing.

The first poems Hardy read were set in present day Ohio, but as her mythological title implies, the poems progressed into poems of Greek myth. She recites a poem that tells the story of Persephone, and another about her in a different light. Hardy’s choice of words was emphasized by her raspy voice; the combination is what made her poetry come to life. Hardy is a petite woman, but when she recited her poems her presence took up the entire room and captivated her audience.

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copyright Tasha Golden

The second poet was Tasha Golden, another alum who did her graduate work at Miami. She is more commonly recognized as the front woman and songwriter for the critically acclaimed band Ellery. Their songs have been heard in several movies and TV shows such as No Strings Attached and The Lying Game. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Louisville where she researches the impact of the arts on stigmatized issues and leads creative writing workshops for incarcerated female teens – this alum does it all and more.

Golden read from her new and first book of poetry, Once You Had Hands which explores violence and sexuality in both intimate relationships and religion. Her poetry was whimsical in nature, but dealt with such harsh subject matter that the juxtaposition of the two opposites made for a great reading. Golden also had a very distinct voice; when talking before reciting her poems she was spunky and extroverted, bright-eyed and engaging the crowd. But when reading, she became quiet spoke in a tone filled with deep emotion. The most impactful moment was when Golden read a poem about dealing with her feelings towards God and then left a pause of stillness before going into another emotional poem. By pausing and going into another poem without stopping to speak or explain, her poetry spoke for itself and was so much louder and clearer than anything Golden could have said instead.

Maggie Ark
Professional Writing ’16

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Miami’s Third Annual Translation Symposium

Translation, as mentioned by Kinsey Cantrell in the previous post, is generally seen as a service instead of an art, where the translator is simply rendering a poem into a different language. The assumption is that translation is as much an art as transcribing the words of someone else. However, as English Ambassador Abigail Mechley notes in her great article for the English Department, the practice of bringing a piece of writing from one language to another “insists on stretching language to its limit”.

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Guest speakers Rosa Alcalá and Erin Moure, respectively.

The Miami University Symposium on Literary Translation brought two distinguished speakers to campus for a two-part event – a Panel on Literary Translation, followed by a reading from their translated works. They, too, echoed the importance of translation. “I realized that there was a world that I understood through Spanish language that wasn’t being expressed in English, a way of thinking and a way of being in the world, and I wanted to capture this in English,” said Alcalá. Moure agreed, noting that translation is an ethical responsibility that allows readers to see their language and the world differently.  A huge thank-you to our guest speakers, and to everyone who attended the symposium!
To read more about the 2016 Miami University Translation Symposium, click here

Claudia Keelan: Female Troubadours and Feminism

Trobairitz

As a Creative Writing major, I’ve written poems, plays, prose. As an Italian minor, I’ve studied language extensively, including literature in other languages. Despite that, before studying it in my poetry workshop, I’d never given translation much thought. I never considered translation a form of creative writing; if the original was the creative writing piece, the translator seemed to be merely the messenger.

However, studying translation and the work of Claudia Keelan gave me a new perspective. Keelan takes the poems of the trobairitz, the female troubadours of the 1100s and 1200s, and translates them into modern day English, bringing them into this century with words like “swag,” “dude,” and “girlfriend” featured prominently. Clearly, these are not direct translations of poetry from the 12th and 13th centuries. A lot of choice and intentionality goes into translating a poem – aside from the liberties one can take with diction, there are line breaks, punctuation, and a rhyme scheme or lack thereof to consider. For Keelan, one of her major focuses was maintaining the musicality of the pieces, and so rhyme and rhythm characterize the verses.

Her passion for the topic made both the poetry and the reading compelling – when she spoke to our poetry class, she referred to the trobairitz as her “sisters” and lamented that she “missed them.” Interesting, given that when she was introduced to the poems, Keelan didn’t like them and felt they were flat and bland. After some research, however, an initial disdain turned into a twenty year endeavor. In the end, she wrote the poems of the trobairitz in a period of about six months, but the preparation and language learning took much, much longer. Keelan mentioned that she feels she “participated in a canonical American English translation,” given that the poetry of the troubadours has been translated into music countless times. However, the trobairitz, the female troubadours, have not been translated as frequently.

And that’s why these translations are important. Claudia Keelan took these young women from a distant time, these women so defined by the social systems they were forced to work with, and revitalized their voices. From a “feminist” point of view and a “heretical Catholic – as in, no one’s going to define my Catholicism” point of view, Keelan greatly respected what the trobairitz had to say about their places in society and their “religion of love” at a time when marriage was seen as a social transaction and marrying for love, as is the social norm today, was a nonexistent concept. Though the male troubadours used more wit and vocabulary in their poems, Keelan commended and admired the trobairitz for their honesty. When asked why she chose to modernize the language, Keelan explained that “their problems, difficulties, pains, and happinesses are modern.” And so they are. Claudia Keelan took those modern sentiments, that raw honesty, and reworked them into terms and a language we are able to understand. Her decisions make these translations uniquely hers; her commitment to this art enabled the trobairitz’ voices to reach new generations.

Thanks to Claudia Keelan, I now understand the difficulty of translation, the art, the originality, the creativity – and, perhaps most importantly, the sheer power.

Kinsey Cantrell
Sophomore

The Poetics of Translation: Miami University’s Annual Translation Symposium

“Isn’t English good enough for you?” Charles Bernstein asked in a 2010 interview with translator Erin Mouré. It’s a question that leads me to reflect on the emotional investment of the translator. What can she offer as a poet to a work that she is translating? How can she retain the original connection the author had with the words of his native tongue in this new language? Why are translated works so crucial to the literary world?

All of these questions and more will be taken up at Miami University’s Annual Translation Symposium, Monday September 21st and Tuesday September 22nd. The two-day event will open with a panel at 4:00pm on Monday September 21 (followed by a reception), then a 6:00pm reading from translated works. Both the panel and the reading will take place in the Bachelor Reading Room (337 BAC). On Tuesday night, the poets will read from their own work at 7:30pm in the Miami University Bookstore, Shriver Center. The featured translators are Erin Mouré, Rachel Galvin, and Rosa Alcalá.

These writers share more than a love for translation; they are all distinguished poets in their own right.

Erin Mouré’s work has been placed on several shortlists including the 2014 Best Translated Book Award for White Piano, a work she translated by Nicole Brossard, from the French. Her most recent project, Insecession (a dual book with Secession by Chus Pato), was released in 2014 and is an exploration of poetry through the acts of reading, writing, and translating. More translates works from French, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Rachel Galvin received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. She has authored a collection of poems called Pulleys & Locomotion as well as a chapbook called Zoetrope. Her translation of Raymond Queneau’s Courir les rues (Hitting the Streets), has received significant critical acclaim. Her poems and translations have appeared in many magazines, from The New Yorker to Drunken Boat to McSweeney’s.

Rosa Alcalá has authored the chapbook Some Maritime Disasters This Century and the selection of poems Undocumentaries, among other books. Her work has been published in magazines including the Barrow Street, Brooklyn Rail, tripwire, Kenyon Review, and Mandorla. Her most well-known translations are from the work of Cecilia Vicuña, Lourdes Vázquez, and Lila Zemborain. Some of her translated poems appear in The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology.

These three women are poets whose interests and talents span across language barriers. How would each of them answer Bernstein’s question— why not stick with English, why pursue other languages? Perhaps they would all answer as Erin Mouré: “But the other languages are a part of me,” an answer which inspires us not only to explore what speaks to each part of our soul, but to consider what other languages it may be speaking.

A Visit from Alissa Quart

Just a week after Beth Harrison’s visit, we were graced by another New York-based writer, Alissa Quart. Last month, Miami University Press published Quart’s first book of poetry, Monetized. In celebration of her book’s publication, Quart paid us a whirlwind visit here in Oxford. You’d never guess it, but Monetized is her first book of poetry. However, it’s only the most recent addition to her list of commendable accomplishments. Quart is an Emmy-nominated multimedia producer, the author of three non-fiction books, a co-editor of a journalism non-profit called Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and a revered journalist, professor, and poet.

During her visit to campus, Quart agreed to attend an informal lunch with students. Because her work is so versatile, students from a variety of majors showed up to meet her and chat over Chinese take out. The students took advantage of the opportunity to pick her brain, and got a free lesson on how to write a hard-hitting piece of journalism. When asked how she manages to juggle so many projects at once, Quart said the key to staying motivated is having a lot to say. She feels an obligation to give voices to those who might not otherwise be heard, and that’s what keeps her chugging along.

Although her work as a poet is secondary to her other professional undertakings at the moment, Quart was a poet first. She was a bit of a poetry whiz as a kid, and she won poetry contests while in grade school. Poetry used to be her “thing.” But, being as multi-talented as she is, Quart was drawn to other artistic pursuits after entering college. Now, she says she writes poetry to help her make sense of her emotions. Much of her journalistic work focuses on topics like economic hardship, parenting, mental illness, and urban living. As you can imagine, there are ugly sides to all of these topics. Quart says that much of the poetry in Monetized evolved from notes that she’d scribble down while working on other projects. Poetry allows her to vent when she’s feeling the feels.

Quart is a commanding public speaker, and she oozed confidence when reading from Monetized. The audience was mesmerized. She read to a full house at the Miami University Bookstore.

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To say that Alissa Quart is busy would be a massive understatement. You’d have a hard time convincing us that she even has time to sleep. We were so pleased to have her here and grateful for the time she devoted to us. If you want to know what all the fuss is about, you can order a copy of Monetized by clicking here.