ATLA Fellow: Nora Delaney

Nora Delaney is a Dutch-English translator based in Boston. Born to American diplomats, she lived in the Hague, the Netherlands, for four years as a child. After completing her M.A. in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, UK, she moved to Amsterdam for a year and worked briefly at a commercial translation agency. For the last five years, Nora has been working in the writing program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also currently a doctoral candidate at Boston University’s Editorial Institute, writing a dissertation on the 20th-century English-Welsh poet David Jones.

In her spare time, Nora translates contemporary Dutch poetry and fiction (and does freelance commercial translation work for museums in the Netherlands). She is particularly interested in the work of poets Remco Campert, Eva Gerlach, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Gerrit Komrij, and Martinus Nijhoff, as well as fiction writers Hella S. Haasse and Harry Mulisch and memoirist Boudewijn Büch. Her translations of these writers’ poems and short stories have appeared in Literary Imagination, Two Lines Online, Absinthe: New European Writing, Subtropics, and Pusteblume, among other publications. In addition to having served as a contributing editor to Pusteblume and the Boston Translation blog, Nora has had her own poems (in English) and literary critical essays published in Little Star, Fulcrum, The Critical Flame, The Arts Fuse, and other publications. She is the 2011 judge of the Robert Frost Foundation’s Robert Frost Award.

Recently, Nora has been translating a number of poems by Remco Campert. Nora’s interest in Campert, a member of the Dutch Vijtigers movement started in the early 1950s, is due primarily to his crystalline imagery – which ranges from the comfortingly familiar to the hauntingly strange – paired with a directness of language that gets to the root of an idea or emotion. While some of Campert’s work has been translated into English, much has not despite the fact that Campert is a major poet who was awarded the PC Hooft Prize, the Netherlands’ most prestigious prize for literature, in 1979 and has written poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for over fifty years. Campert has over 30 book-length publications to his name, but only a handful have been translated into English.

When translating Campert into English, form is not an issue – Campert writes in free verse. What is essential is conveying the disarming quality of the ideas and sentiments in his work. In his poem “Against Inclusion in the Umpteenth Anthology” (“Tegen Opname in de Zoveelste Bloemlezing”), for instance, Campert writes “Poetry breaks my breath, makes / my feet lame[.]” His poetry is intensely physical and it important to try to retain that shock of physicality – the surprise of the words that may stop the breath and feet in their tracks – in translating his work. While his poems are those of feeling and sentiment, they are never overly sentimental; even the most tender poems do not pull the veil over real life. Nora is looking forward to sharing her translations of Remco Campert’s refreshing and thought-provoking poetry at the 2011 ALTA conference.


About Erica Mena

Erica Mena is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and book artist. Pronouns: they/them.
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One Response to ATLA Fellow: Nora Delaney

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