Many of the interesting talks that OU offers take place while I am in class. Luckily, one of my teachers decided to have a class fieldtrip to a translation workshop given by an OU Linguistics alumnus. While I was expecting a theoretical talk, the lecture was actually a hands-on attempt to translate a Bissau-Guinean poem. Both the Portuguese poem and an English crib, or literal translation, were provided. The workshop was modeled after the Poetry Translation Centre’s workshops, which pair a native speaker with a well-known British poet. Since I already had a notebook out, I volunteered to be the transcriptionist, who writes down the final decisions.
The poem was written by Tony Tcheka, a prominent Bissau-Guinean poet who writes in Portuguese and Kriol, but has never been translated into English. The poem we worked with is called, in our translation anyway, Infected Earth. It describes the winds that sweep down from the Sahel during the dry season. The challenge was to translate the literal meaning while making it sound poetic in English. While our translation was far from perfect, I enjoyed the process of playing with words and learning the geographic and cultural context for the poem.