Konferenz, 6. September 2021

Konferenz – „Translating Contemporary Poetry: Forms of Transition between Europe, Asia, and the Americas“

6. September 2021 - 10. September 2021
Universität Trier


Currently, there is so much and such a variety of translation as perhaps never before in the history of world literature, which in its globally and transnationally role as translated literature actually reaches its full development. In this process, poetry translation is also experiencing a strong upswing, in which the translator acts as a mediator between languages and literatures, not only in the professional segment of accomplished authors and translators, but also and especially in the broad field of interested amateurs or in contexts such as philological translation dedicated to academic research.

But the translation of poetry, especially contemporary poetry, has to address extraordinary challenges. Hence, there is widespread view that poetry translation appears to be impossible: translation would either result in the reduction of texts to their lexical-semantic content or an entirely new poetry. It is therefore no coincidence that translation theory tends to disregard poetry. Moreover, it seems to be no coincidence that poetry translation as an art form has advanced to become a core area of theoretical reflection on translation.

The characteristics of linguistic and poetic forms and their specific potentials for aesthetic reception usually have even fewer correspondences in the target language than their semantic content. These problems specific to poetry in each case result from the very different developments in literary history, politics and society; the sometimes strongly divergent approaches to poetic forms and procedures in the various literatures can, if reproduced in translation, evoke other and different poetic functions and effects conditioned by the aesthetics of reception.

The translation of contemporary poetry faces special challenges. Frequently, the authors and their texts are little or not at all known in the target language, and there are few or no exemplary texts on which the new translation could be based or from which it could consciously distance itself. Moreover, the selection of the texts to be translated and the introduction of the poets into the other language and literary area appears to be particularly difficult for contemporary poetry, which still has to find its audience.

In addition, contemporary poetry is also and especially characterized by processes of hybridization, which affect the linguistic level (multilingualism) as well as poetic and cultural references. Transcultural poetry requires transcultural translation, which, however, must necessarily take a different form against the background of the respective target language, literature and readership. Here, the possibility of direct contact with living authors to clarify and reflect on certain issues can be instrumental. Literatures show a very different degree of internationalization; and in the various language areas, both current practices of poetry translation and contemporary philological theories and models differ.

The conference aims to examine recent trends in poetry translation in East Asia, Western and Eastern Europe and the Americas since the turn of the millennium using examples from contemporary poetry, and to compare them, on the one hand, against the background of their respective traditions and, on the other hand, in an international context. The focus of the conference is therefore on comparative studies; contributions are invited which compare approaches to poetic translation in different language areas.


Financial Support & Submissions

For those who would like to apply for financial support, please indicate the sum of your expected costs of travel and accommodation by May 1, 2021. We can reimburse the incurred costs on the following conditions: flight economy class, train class 2; hotel room up to max. 80 Euro per person and night without breakfast (any amount exceeding this sum cannot be reimbursed; receipts are only reimbursed on presentation).

The condition for the approval of funding is the submission of a publication-ready article, which we will then have to read and accept. The deadline is May 1, 2021. The financing will be confirmed by June 15, 2021 in order to assure travel security.

In you do not plan to apply for financial support, but would like to submit an article for publication, please, do this by June 30, 2021.


Thematic Sections of the Conference

  1. Theory: Which models of poetry translation are currently applied in the various philologies? Upon which hermeneutics are they based?


  1. Typology: Which appearance might a typology of possible forms of lyric translation take on? Which criteria could be developed for characterising, classifying and evaluating lyric translations?


  1. Poetology of Lyric Translation: How do contemporary poets themselves understand poetic translation and which role does their understanding play in their own poetics? Do contemporary translation poetics question and extend traditional notions of authorship and work identity in the process of translation? How does poetry translation differ from the translation of other literary genres?


  1. World Literature: What is the significance of poetry translation for the internationalisation of literature? How is translation involved in the development of ‚world poetry‘? To what extent does poetry translation take into account the untranslatability of language(s) and culture(s)? How are the self and the other renegotiated and related in the process of translation?


  1. Forms of Practice and Praxiology: Which types of poetry translation are commonly used today in which language area? How do philologists translate and how do poets translate? Which processes are involved in poetic self-translation? How does poetry translation relate to spheres of activity within the literary establishment and the literary public (concerning: authorship, copyright, publishing houses, traditional and new media, funding institutions, prizes, the reading public)? Could we even identify a sociology of poetry translation?


  1. Multilingualism: Especially recent poetry is – in various ways – characterized by multilingualism, the use of style levels and sociolects, dialects or even idiolects: Which challenges are thus created for the varying target languages, and how do they differ?


  1. Transculturality: Contemporary poetry hybridizes different cultural influences. How do translators deal with this constellation? And to what extent does transculturality manifest itself in the translation of poetry?


  1. Genre Transition and Intermediality: Contemporary poetry hybridizes characteristics of different genres and works with different media. Which special challenges could thus be identified for translation?


  1. Traditions of Translation: Which have been the main tendencies that the various literatures have developed for the translation of poetry and in which relation to them has poetry translation evolved in the present?


  1. Multiple Translations and Dialogue versus ‚Contest‘ of Translations: Which poems have been particularly often translated into one language in the present? How could this focus on certain texts be explained? Which are the reasons for the conspicuous occurrence of multiple translations? Of which nature are the translations in relation to each other, possibly also in several languages? Who or what decides whether a text is translated and thus becomes visible or remains invisible for a specific readership, and which translator is enabled to even translate a text, and for which reasons?


  1. Case Study Paul Celan: Celan, whose hundredth birthday will be celebrated in 2020, is not only considered one of the most translated poets in the world today, but also one of the great poet-translators of classical modernism. His translational work has received an unprecedented reception in literary and translation studies. Which poems are of particular interest in which language areas? How are Celan’s special poetic and linguistic procedures of silence and the decentering or multiplication of meaning dealt with? How are the highly problematic topics, influenced by the Shoah, treated in translation? How is the Jewish dimension dealt with? Which image of Celan is constructed by translations in the different language areas? Which significance does Celan’s own translation poetry hold for contemporary poetry translators?


  1. Mystification, Transmesis and Translational Fictions: How are translation mystifications in the present and ‚fictitious‘ poetry translations in other genres, such as fictitious translations of poems in a novel or translations without the original (pseudo translations), configured?


  1. Micro Languages: To what extent do poetic translations contribute to the preservation and dissemination of micro-languages? Which particularities are apparent in this context?


  1. Writing Systems: Which challenges do the peculiarities of logographic writing systems (e.g. Chinese and Japanese) pose to translators of lyrical texts? Which strategies can be used to transfer concrete poetry in these cases?


  1. Free Topics