Transreading Central Europe by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese for the Poetry School This is a new course from the Poetry School that I am really excited to see happening. Transreading Central Europe by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese is really a perfect companion to my Maintenant course that ran earlier this year, and Elżbieta is the perfect person to share such an interesting and expansive idea through the genuinely open learning environment and considered support structure that the Poetry School offers. A few comments from Elżbieta on the course...

"I choose to accept the opinion expressed so aptly by Octavio Paz: ‘Each original poem is the translation of the unknown or absent text.’ I choose to ignore the largely misquoted Robert Frost statement that poetry is what’s lost in translation. I’m interested in Marilyn Hacker’s description of creative rewriting as ‘a battle between the literal and the pleasing,’ though I consider it in less belligerent terms. I opt for Derek Mahon’s approach as explained in his preface to Echo’s Grove: ‘the best plan may be to approximate with zest, to refuse pedantry and intimidation.’ I choose to repeat, after Clive Scott, a translator of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, that any translation is ‘an autobiography of the reading self.’
            Therefore, in our course, without pedantry and intimidation, I hope, though with imaginative acumen, we will read together: not Szymborskas, but other poets who merit similar recognition. We could have easily focused exclusively on Poland; however, I thought it might be revealing to look at Central Europe. Can we spot affinities between these poets and poems? Can we recognize common preoccupations? Can we pinpoint difference and idiosyncrasies? Sometimes after readings I’m told that Polish poetry has specific qualities not usually found in English-language poems..."

Course description in the Poetry School programme
‘Translating is reading, reading of the best, the most essential kind’, wrote William H. Gass introducing the concept of ‘transreading’. Would you like to read beyond Herbert, Holub, Popa, Šalamun or Szymborska, writing your own translations and independent poems? In this course you will respond to  recent work by Central European poets, strengthening your knowledge of other literatures and invigorating your own  poetry. You don’t need to speak Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian or Slovenian – all you need is curiosity and a love of anything trans: transmigration, transgression, transfiguration. Every fortnight you will experiment with one ‘rewriting strategy’ (homophonic translation, erasure, annotation, recontextualization) and transform the texts you’ve read into your own versions. Your fifth and final poem will be a ‘straight’ translation from a Polish crib, which will evolve into a collaborative work composed by the whole group.