2nd CTS Professionalisation Talk 2017-18: International Writers at Leeds

British poet, editor, and translator Robin Ouzman Hislop read selections from his original and translated works.

Robin Ouzman Hislop is an accomplished British poet, editor, and translator. He is the current editor of Poetry Life & Times, and has penned several books of poetry, including his most recent work Cartoon Molecules. As a translator, Robin has worked with poet and translator Amparo Arróspide to produce English-language versions of works by several Spanish poets, including Key of Mist by Guadalupe Grande and Tessarae by Carmen Crespo. In this, the second of Leeds University’s current series of Language Talks, Robin, accompanied by Leeds University’s own Antonio Martínez-Arboleda read selections from his original and translated works, and offered guests a unique insight into the complexities, joys and challenges of poetic translation. While translating Grande’s Key of Mist Robin was faced with the challenge of ‘reciprocating the concepts’ with which the poet was engaged, whilst also projecting a large number of surreal images. In other words, semantic choice was not the only consideration in his translation process. Carmen Crespo’s Tesserae presented a challenge of a different sort, in that the work consists of incomplete ‘fragments’ of sentences which often omit otherwise indispensable grammatical components such as verbs. For this translation, Robin was faced with the task of conveying the poet’s intended meaning and effect as fully as possible, whilst also staying true to the poem’s fragmentary structure and graphology. After discussing these pieces, Robin then proceeded to introduce his original works as a poet with All the Babble of the Souk. The ‘babble’ Robin explained, refers to the frenzied, multilingual milieu into which he found himself absorbed during this period. Written during a period of travel between England, Morocco and Spain, this collection is a reflection on humanity and progress, and asks questions about the longevity and vulnerability of humankind.

Robin also read and discussed poems from his second collection, Cartoon Molecules. In this collection, he explores Kurzweil’s idea of the singularity, and considers the role of the human race in relation to globalisation and progress. He examines artificial intelligence and technological advancement in the modern world, questioning our control and use of these resources as a society. His readings of poems such as King Kong and Tenochtitlan sparked intrigue on mankind’s interspecific and intersocietal relationships, as well as our impact on the natural and indigenous world.

It is fitting that this event was presented by Antonio Martínez-Arboleda; as well as being a self-professed fan of Robin’s work, and a poet in his own right, Antonio himself has translated two of Robin’s poems (Abandoned Isle and Dream of the Machine) into Spanish, both of which were read on Tuesday night in their original and translated forms, and have been published in the poetry journal ‘Crátera’. Antonio suggested that the use of cultural references within Cartoon Molecules was a point of interest for readers. Indeed, the abstract and complex ideas presented within the collection were made all the more accessible through universally recognisable popular culture references, such as films or advertising campaigns- a theme that tied in well with Antonio’s desire to make poetry accessible for all.

Robin and Antonio also discussed various difficulties they have experienced when translating poetry. It was clear that even after extensive discussion with the original poet, translating the precise intended meaning of a poem is hardly straightforward. The nuances of words are not only subtle, but also subjective. This is often made more difficult when writers have to consider spatial constraints or the opinions of other collaborators when working on a project.

For CTS students, the evening was a fantastic opportunity to better understand the complexities of literary translation, and offered an enjoyable insight into the potential influence a translator can have on a final written or performed piece. The Centre for Translation Studies is grateful to Robin and Antonio for their enlightening discussion.

For more information:

Poetry Life & Times. http://www.artvilla.com/
Books. Robin Ouzman Hislop www.aquillrelle.com/publishedbooks.htm
Author's Page http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14752100.Robin-Ouzman-Hislop

By Lydia Breite, Eleonora Pagnotta, Alisha Sesum, Toby Walters