A YEAR OF CONVERSATION 2019 AT STANZA
I am delighted that StAnza has responded so positively to A Year of Conversation and especially to one of its main themes, Translation as Conversation. Alastair Reid, one of our finest poets and translator of Borges and Neruda enjoyed conversation more than anyone I've ever met. When my friend Richard Gwyn was working on a new anthology of Latin American poetry, I told him he had to meet Alastair. Richard drove to Dumfries and I then drove him to meet Alastair. Richard told me it was a meeting of great significance for him and in fact was the final spur he needed to finish the book. Six weeks later Alastair died. To the Edinburgh launch of The Other Tiger, Recent Poetry from Latin America, edited and translated by Richard Gwyn (Seren 2017), Richard brought two Mexican poets, a Chilean poet and the Argentinian poet and translator, Jorge Fondebrider. In a short discussion, Jorge commented, 'It's very hard to have a (cultural/literary) conversation with you (the audience), because you are so ignorant – pardon me for saying so. If you go into a bookshop in Buenas Aires, it is full of translations from English-speaking poets. You go into a bookshop here and where are they? We are missing half the conversation.'
The idea of translation as 'conversation' immediately struck me. I recalled Robyn Marsack used to say we must pay attention to both what goes out and what comes in, but I think the idea of conversation makes this much clearer: something that suggests two sides considered equally. It seems to me that such a process is culturally and politically necessary at the moment. A Year of Conversation began with poetry and it is fitting – and a mark of responsive programming – that threads of the process are being woven together at StAnza. I shall be speaking about Alastair and the relationship for him between translation as conversation (Sat 9 March), Richard Gwyn will be marking his presence at StAnza with readings from his own work (Sunday 10 March) and there will be a breakfast cafe conversation on translation – A Conversation in Translation on the same day. There are however other events – rich conversations - which extend the idea of (Translation as) Conversation throughout the festival. Each of these is marked with a note saying, ‘in association with A Year of Conversation’.