Hilary Kaplan of our English department loves languages and literature. She combines those passions to ensure people have a larger opportunity to discover great literature and poetry. On Feb. 4, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that she received a Literature Fellowship award for a translation project in the Literary Arts category.
Ms. Kaplan’s award will “support the translation from the Brazilian Portuguese of the poetry collection “Slow Motion” by Marília Garcia.” She continues, “Garcia's fifth book of poetry, “Slow Motion” won the prestigious Oceanos Prize, a leading award for global Portuguese-language literature, making her not only the first Brazilian woman, but also the second woman ever, to win the award. A central question in the book is how displacement and dislocation—achieved, for example, through travel, walking, or the action of words in poetry—can create different ways of seeing and thinking. Filled with everyday life and philosophical musings, these poems narrate and enact the speaker traversing through physical space and her subsequent transformation of viewpoints and ways of thinking.”
Previous translation projects for Ms. Kaplan include Marília Garcia's “The Territory Is Not the Map”, and her translation of Angélica Freitas' Rilke Shake won the National Translation Award in Poetry, the Best Translated Book Award in Poetry, and was shortlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.
The impetus for this work came during her work in the creative writing MFA program at San Francisco State University. She explains, “I took classes with two inspiring teachers and translators, the poet Stacy Doris and her husband, Chet Wiener. Being in a group of people writing so much poetry, I became interested in what poets were writing at the same time in Brazil, since I knew Portuguese. I'd also studied Brazilian literature and knew how many wonderful writers there were who were virtually unknown in the U.S. because they'd never been translated into English. (This was before the Clarice Lispector boom.) I went to Brazil to learn about recent poetry and began translating.”
Describing the process of translation, she says, “Translation puts you in close contact with the sound, sense, and shape of a work. The effort is solitary much of the time, but I enjoy presenting my work to other writers and translators for feedback when I have a decent draft. There's also a community of poets and informants I turn to when I hit a sticky problem: how on earth do I say or do "x"?! I like the challenge of carrying across a poem's sound, rhythm, and form while conveying its literal sense as well.”
Ms Kaplan anticipates the translation of “Slow Motion” will take place over the next two years, and although she has “already translated some of the poems,” she expects to really dig in over the summer months.
She really wants people to know “There’s a world of literature for you to discover! There's more to literature than just the English tradition. Infamously, only three percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation – and of that, only about 0.7 percent is literary fiction and poetry. There is room for us to embrace more literary voices and perspectives from around the world.”