Forms on the Boundary

Creative Translation as Poetic Practice

In 1960 Stanley Burnshaw described poetry translation as the “poorest subdivision of English verse,” and this workshop will take great joy in proving him wrong. While you can use this course to hone your translation skills if you’re already working in more than one language, you don’t need to know multiple languages to make creative translation a part of your practice. We’ll use translation as a springboard for our own work, whether moving a whole poem from one language to another or inventing a new language to translate from or to. Practicing translation of languages both “real” and imaginary allows us to consider complex questions about how moving words from one language to another translates not only words, but places, bodies, contexts, cultures, politics and, often, temporalities. In the widest sense, every act of speech is a translation that attempts to move what we carry within ourselves to an exterior form, whether spoken or on the page. We will generate new work while considering translation from the ancient to the contemporary, reading and basing writing exercises on poets such as Anne Carson, the Imaginary Poets, Alice Oswald, Monique Wittig, Niina Pollari, Paul Celan, Yusef Komunyaka, Thomas Meyer, Octavio Paz and Tomas Transtromer. We will also work with forms on the boundary, including the Cento, the Beautiful Outlaw, and sound-based translation, and engage with ancient texts in a practice akin to “temporal drag.”

Workshop Details


Miller Oberman‘s first book, The Unstill Ones, a collection of original poems and Old English translations, has been chosen by Susan Stewart for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and will be published in the fall of 2017. A former Ruth Lilly Fellow as well as a 2016 winner of the 92nd St Y’s Boston Review/Discovery Prize, his translation of selections from the “Old English Rune Poem” won Poetry’s John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize for Translation in 2013. Oberman has poems and translations forthcoming in Poetry, Harvard Review, Tin House and the Nation, and he is currently finishing The Ruin, a collection of poems and Old English translations. He has taught workshops in poetry, poetics and fiction at Georgia College and the University of Connecticut, where he is completing his PhD in English. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, rock singer Louisa Rachel Solomon of the Shondes.