Poetry translation workshop on San Simón island, Galicia

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    Merja and Margrét on the boat to the island
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    at work on San Simon
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    The poets perform their work
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    San Simon Island
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    Brane and Margrét
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    Boats at San Simon
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    disembarking at San Simon Island
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    The whole group - Yolanda Castaño, Merja Virolainen, Marko Pogačar, Margrét Lóa Jónsdóttir, Sergej Timofejev, Brane Mozetič and Txema Martínez

In November 2012 poets Marko Pogačar (Croatia)
, Margrét Lóa Jonsdóttir (Iceland)
, Brane Mozetič (Slovenia)
, Sergej Timofejev (Latvia/Russian), Txema Martínez (Catalonia), Merja Virolainen (Finland)
 and Yolanda Castaño (Galicia) came together on the island of San Simón near Vigo for our first translation workshop in Galicia. Initiated and led by the Galician poet Yolanda Castaño the poets spent a week steeped in each other’s literary traditions, working on translations of each other’s poetry. There were public readings at the Museo do Mar – the Museum of the Sea – in Vigo and at the Redondela Public Library.

Workshop leader, Yolanda Castaño reports from the workshop…

“The first edition of the International Poetry Translation Workshop “Con barqueira e remador” took place in a pleasant, confident and inspiring atmosphere in the tiny San Simón island, in the ria of Vigo (Galicia – northwest coast of Spain). This small Atlantic island provided the perfect scene for concentrated, intense, productive and inspiring work from the 29th of October to the 3rd of November 2012. Seven poets from different countries and languages in Europe arrived in Galicia with a drafts translations of up to seven pages from each poet.

A strong sense of teamwork was quickly formed as the poets worked hard on translation throughout the day. The evenings were reserved for events and activities which introduced the poets to the Galician landscape, culture and readers. The poets visited Santiago de Compostela, capital of Galicia and took part in a round table event: “What does being a poet mean today in… Finland, Slovenia, Latvia, Catalonia, Croatia and Iceland?” at the Mugartegui Palace in Pontevedra. There were multilingual poetry readings at the Sea Museum in Vigo and Redondela pulic library as well as a literary walk along through old Vigo.

All these events allowed the Galician audiences to go deep into the work of the poets, and also allowed the poets to discover real contemporary Galician culture as well as the cities of Santiago, Vigo, Pontevedra and Redondela. So we combined a little tourism with poetry readings, reflection, debate and literary discovery.

The workshop sessions were intense and productive, with everybody participating on an equal level. By the end of the week we could each recite translations of at least two poems of every poet  but many other texts were also successfully finalised, through collective work or, later, by small groups of two or three poets. All participants were excellent poets and sensitive translators with a good knowledge of English which allowed for a sound basis to work and communicate from.

The intense discussions went deep into the language contexts of each poem, their contents, background and themes. But we also had time to get to know each other and share questions and worries about being writers from several rather remote corners of Europe. So the whole week was intense, enormously enriching, inspiring and extremely interesting for everybody.

The Atlantic landscape, the rich history and culture heritage of Santiago de Compostela, the soft weather, the delicious Galician kitchen, the warm audiences, the pleasant spirit, the sensitive talent and intelligent sense of humour of the participants contributed to a wonderful week that will be very difficult to forget.

This first International Poetry Translation Workshop has been of an extreme importance for Galicia, not only because it is the first initiative of its kind – putting Galicia in the map in terms of international literary exchange – but also because a good infrastructure for literary translations and international promotion doesn’t yet exist in this linguistic region. And I’m delighted that the seeds of this fantastic project are now starting to grow.”

Yolanda Castaño, December 2012

Read an article on the workshop written by Sergej Timofejev in Russian here.

Literature Across Frontiers is grateful for the support of the following organisations for this workshop: Xunta de Galicia, Fundación illa de San Simón, Concello de Pontevedra, Asociación de Escritores en Lingua Galega, Fundación Carlos Casares, Universidade de Vigo – Facultade de Filoloxía e Tradución, Museo do Mar de Galicia and the Concello de Redondela.