October 17, 2008

New York State Writers' Institute, October 8

The New York State Writers Institute hasn't been bringing in a lot of poets of late but this semester there are a few on the roster worth seeing.

I caught the late afternoon reading by Brazilian poet Astrid Cabral with her translator Alexis Levitin. Cabral's reading was from her new book Cage (Host Publications, Austin TX) in the original Portuguese with Alexis Levitin reading the English first. Their technique was for Levitin to read a sentence, or a discrete phrase, & then for the poet to read the original, then back to the the translation. Her poems are generally short anyway, but this method was effective in linking the English translation to the Portuguese original, much better than reading the complete poem in one language then hearing it read again.

Cage is a stunning little book in which the poet restores her fellowship to the animal world, the snakes, oxen, turtle, gecko, even ants & fossils of fish, sometimes real & sometimes springing from the poet's imagination; & if you were lucky enough to be there that day you got the book at a discount. She/they read almost half of it with a discussion of some of the issues of translation. At one point Levitin admitted to a "mistake" in the translation of a word in the poem "River Dolphin in the Body."

After the reading I mentioned to Alexis Levitin that I had heard him read here with the late (European) Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade, & he pointed out that that reading was nearly 20 years ago. I went back to my photo file & found the pictures from that day -- check them out on http://www.flickr.com/people/dwlcx/.

& check out the Writers Institute schedule at www.albany.edu/writers-inst