Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies Fellows Adriana X. Jacobs and Alex Moshkin have organized an online event series that highlights the diversity of poetic voices from Israel/Palestine through the lens of translation. The series, Stranger Still: Translating Contemporary Poetry from Israel/Palestine, begins on October 22 with an event featuring poet Rita Kogan. Kogan, a feminist poet and translator in Israel, produces original verse in Hebrew and translations from her native Russian. She will be interviewed by Alex Moshkin and Zackary Sholem Berger.
The series aims to unsettle the idea of Israeli literature as being monolingual and that “translation” means translation into English. Jacobs and Moshkin are bringing together poets who work in a variety of languages, as do the translators. They intentionally invited speakers whose work challenges the Israeli poetic establishment and the dominance of Hebrew. Many of the poets they will be speaking with are multilingual and Hebrew is just one of their linguistic and cultural homes.
Jacobs commented on how translating poems differs from other work, “I’ve translated some prose so I have a sense of a distinction, but the moment I begin to put it into words it feels arbitrary. The poet and translator Don Mee Choi recently described translators as incubators, which would make translation like an egg. More so than my prose translations, my translations of poetry feel like they can go so many ways. Like the eggs got mixed up at some point and what I am incubating may come out as a robin or an alligator.”
Both of the organizers have been working on translations of contemporary Hebrew poetry and being at the Frankel Institute together presented an opportunity to collaborate, share some of their translations-in-progress, and also bring other poets and translators into this conversation. Jacobs and Moshkin are arranging the series to continue into 2021, anticipating to schedule one event per month, until the end of the academic year. Each event will include a writer of contemporary Hebrew poetry and a translator of their work. The poets will do a short reading of their work, followed by a discussion of the translation process. Future events in the series will be announced as details are finalized.
Jacobs hopes that the series will energize viewers to seek out more work by these poets, and read more poetry in translation in general. “This pandemic has really complicated people’s daily lives, so the fact that anyone would choose to spend part of their day listening to a conversation on poetry and translation is really remarkable.”
Moshkin added, “The poetry that we curated will illuminate the inherent diversity, but also fraught complexity, of Israeli culture and society.”