Translation Honors Awarded at ALTA’s Annual Conference
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), which is housed at UT Dallas, presented top awards to two separate collections of poetry at its annual conference, held in Kansas City on Nov. 17.
Lisa Rose Bradford received the 2011 National Translation Award for her translation ofBetween Words: Juan Gelman’s Public Letter (Coimbra Editions, 2010). The $5,000 prize is given annually to the translator whose work, by virtue of both its quality and significance, has made the most valuable contribution to literary translation.
Charles Egan was honored with the 2011 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize for Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown: Poems by Zen Monks of China (Columbia University Press, 2010). The $5,000 Stryk prize, which was established by an anonymous donor, recognizes the best book-length translation into English of Asian poetry or of source texts from Zen Buddhism.
Bradford teaches Comparative Literature at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata in Argentina. She has edited two compendiums on translation and cultural studies and two U.S. poetry anthologies in Spanish. Three volumes of her translations of Juan Gelman have been published to date. In addition, Bradford’s poems and translations have appeared in various magazine and journals.
Between Words: Juan Gelman’s Public Letter consists of a series of poetic elegies addressed by the Argentinian poet-in-exile to his son, Marcelo, who disappeared in 1976 in Argentina’s “dirty war.” First published in Spain in 1980, Gelman’s work was warmly and enthusiastically embraced throughout the Spanish-speaking world, garnering the author numerous prizes, including the prestigious Premio Cervantes. Public Letter, in the words of Bradford, represents an attempt “to come to terms with sorrow and exile by showing how poetry can heroically rise up against death with incessant and poignant beauty.”
“This is more than just an honor; it is solid encouragement for the translator’s creative work,” said Bradford. “The conversion of Gelman’s rhythmic lines, intertextualities, unorthodox grammar, and wordplay into English requires a great deal of challenging inventiveness.”
Charles Egan, winner of the 2011 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, is Professor of Chinese and Director of the Chinese Flagship Partner Program at San Francisco State University. His interests include Classical Chinese literature and culture, medieval China and Buddhism. He has published numerous articles on Chinese poetry, folk songs, and art, and is a frequent translator.
Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown presents 190 poems by monk-poets of the eighth to 17th centuries, in styles ranging from vernacular and direct to imagistic and evocative.
“I am deeply grateful to ALTA for this award, as it is recognition from those who really understand how difficult translation can be, my fellow translators. Given the vast differences between the Chinese and English languages, and the literary traditions of East and West, composing translations that both work in English and are true to the original sources requires a delicate balancing act,” Egan said.
The jury for the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize praised Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown for “not only the high quality of its translations, which strive to keep a handsome formal ease even when observing in English the demands of syntactic parallelism, but also the considerable scholarship that Egan employs with admirable accessibility.”
ALTA, which is housed at The University of Texas at Dallas, is dedicated to the promotion of literary translation through services to literary translators, forums on the theory and practice of translation, and collaboration with the international literary community. For more information, visit www.literarytranslators.org.