Featuring poetry in translation from Quebec
guest edited by Oana Avasilichioaei
June 2013 • 384 pp. • 6″ x 9″ • $15.00
Original art by Mie Olise
Now’s Matter: Work in Translation from Quebecois French
What does it matter now? What matters now? What is the matter now? What is now’s matter? All possible transversions of Jean-Marc Desgent’s questioning title Qu’importe maintenant? The following work of fourteen writers, presented in American and Canadian English translations from the Quebecois French by twelve translators, are possible responses.
The selection of this work is based on which poetries in Quebec’s Francophone literary weather feel vital right now; which works seem utterly relevant and current to this moment (which is always a multiple and refracted moment); which poetries are speaking, calling, urging, moaning, crying to the reader in us; which works, in their lexicons and syntax, their movements and music, wake us up, make us feel excited and alive in language. In short, which poetries give a damn.
The selection is not historical, generational, ideological, chronological. It is expansive, diverse, rigorous, stretching and straying linguistic, poetical and genre boundaries. It is also entirely contemporary, in the way that Giorgio Agamben thinks of contemporariness, where one has an anachronistic and disjunctive relation to one’s time1. Therefore, the featured writers (and translators) represent a range of generations and experience, approaches and interests; they are artists with thirty books or one book to their name (even posthumous in one case), and their poetics touch on other fields and medias.
Much of the work comes from book-length projects, appearing here in excerpted and therefore necessarily altered forms, the work not only undergoing a linguistic translation but a formal one as well. Many of the writers perhaps think through book-length works because speaking across the gutter is necessary, building narrative in order to break the narrative, thrusting typographies into topographies. In shouldering their works against one another’s, this segment creates a new movement of their tonalities, leafs them into a different book.
In French, the concepts of experience and experiment are joined in one word, expérience. Thus, to experiment, one must experience, be active, in motion, not static, shifting into the possible without a necessary closure. One wonders about the kind of language experiment that the experience of living and writing in Quebec encourages; living in a linguistic here that is aware of a very different linguistic there, being in the rub between languages, being in a French that is alert to a non-French, and a French that has had a complicated, troubled and rebellious relationship with continental French.
Straddling the book’s gutter, in it for the long haul, playing within and without French’s bounds2, the works reveal a poetic on the borderlands between poetry and other modes of thought, in dialogue with other forms of discourse; poetries being shaped in and through the intersections between language and philosophy, visual art, pop culture, critical theory, sound, performance, document, science, politics, etc.
Added to this mix are the diverse subjectivities, histories, approaches of the various translators, transferring the works across yet further borders3. Here language is alive, is in the making. A seemingly (and deceptively) simple word such as ventre transforms into stomach (Schürch/Dick), belly (Neveu/Cole) or womb (Doré/Swensen)4.
Peopled with many I’s (possibly political), assembling and disbanding into several we’s (possibly social), the poetical and the political meet in this social arena of language being and language making. Do we enter?
Montreal/New York, March 2013
1 Contemporariness is “that relationship with time that adheres to it through a disjunction and an anachronism. Those who coincide too well with the epoch, those who are perfectly tied to it in every respect, are not contemporaries, precisely because they do not manage to see it; they are not able to firmly hold their gaze on it.” Giorgio Agamben, “What is the Contemporary?” in What is Apparatus and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik & Stefan Pedatella, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009, p.41.)
2 “It is the writer’s role to test out, provoke the naturalized edges and bounds of language use and rules.” Caroline Bergvall, Meddle English, (New York: Nightboat Books, 2011), p.16-17.
3 “Translation as displacement. Literally from one language and culture to another. Literally also, within the text.” Rosemarie Waldrop, Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès, (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2002), p.54.
4 “Translation: troubled transparency, clarity of imposture. Not likeness. The same and not the same. A rose is a rose. Is not.” Ibid, p.138.
© Oana Avasilichioaei. All rights reserved.
Mie Olise lives in Copenhagen and New York.
Working as a painter and constructor of architectural installations, Mie Olise works with narratives relating to place and desolate structures. Olise has travelled to places in different states of disrepair, like a Russian abandoned ghost town by the Arctic Circle, to research, collect stories and later subjectively develop particular layers of the found truths.
Working on the “The Silent Station,” Olise went on a two-way journey from the island of Mors, where she grew up in Denmark, to Newfoundland in the footsteps of the character, Espen Arnakke and to Holland in the quest of tracking down the ship of the same name. The collected stories found on this journey have been a generator for the projects in the current show. Concept determines the media in her practice.
After graduating with her MFA from Central St. Martins, London in 2007 Olise has been traveling to residencies from Iceland, Berlin, Skowhegan to The ISCP in New York.
In 2013 Olise will open a new travelling exhibition starting at Museo de Arte Acarigua-Araure in Venezuela.
Mie Olise additionally holds an MA in Architecture (2001).
Poet, translator and editor, Oana Avasilichioaei’s work traverses public space, textual architecture, multilingualism, sound and collaborative performance. Recent editing projects include “The Mapping Issue” (co-edited with Kathleen Brown for Dandelion Magazine, Calgary, 2011) and a series of commentaries on Canadian experimental poetry for Jacket2 (2011). She has translated from the work of Quebecois writers, including Geneviève Desrosiers, Jean-Marc Desgent, Steve Savage, Louise Cotnoir (The Islands, Wolsak & Wynn, 2011) and Daniel Canty (Wigrum, Talonbooks, forthcoming fall 2013), as well as from the Romanian of Paul Celan and Nichita Stănescu (Occupational Sickness, BuscheckBooks, 2006). She has also played in the bounds of translation and creation in a poetic collaboration with Erín Moure (Expeditions of a Chimæra, BookThug, 2009). Her most recent poetic book project is We, Beasts (Wolsak & Wynn, 2012) and her audio work can be found on PennSound.
Poetry in translation from Quebec
Guest edited by Oana Avasilichioae
Translations by Oana Avasilichioaei,
Daniel Canty, Norma Cole, Ingrid Pam Dick,
Katia Grubisic, Bronwyn Haslam, Jen Hutton,
Lazer Lederhendler, françois luong, Robert
Majzels, Erín Moure, and Cole Swensen
Edited by E. Tracy Grinnell, erica kaufman,
and Tyrone Williams with contributing editors
Jen Hofer and Jamie Townsend
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
(Brent Armendinger, trans.)
(Brent Armendinger, trans.)
C. Violet Eaton
Mónica de la Torre
Arturo Ramírez Lara
(John Pluecker, trans.)
Sueyeun Juliette Lee
Essays, notes, reviews
Edited by E. Tracy Grinnell & erica kaufman
with contributing editor Jamie Townsend
Gregoire Pam Dick
J. C. Vischer on Gail Scott
Catherine Mavrikakis and Nathanaël