The National Translation Award (NTA), given by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) at our conference, is the oldest prize for a work of literary translation. This year, the association was pleased to present the award in poetry to translator Pierre Joris for his stunning translation into English from the German.
Breathturn into Timestead by Paul Celan, translated from the German by Pierre Joris (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014).
“More than a monumental work of scholarship, Pierre Joris’s 40-year project in translation of the later poetry of one of the twentieth century’s most original and “untranslatable” poets is an extraordinary work of poetry in contemporary English. With seeming ease, Joris conveys the complexity and inventiveness of the original German without oversimplifying or domesticating its difficulty, its dark beauty, or the depth of its ideas. His commentary is also of great value in illuminating the background, sources and meanings of Celan’s singular voice,” wrote judges in poetry Lisa Rose Bradford, Stephen Kessler, and Diana Thow.
Pierre Joris is the author of over forty books. As one of the foremost translators of avant-garde poetry into both French and English, he frequently explores the lesser-known works of both major and obscure experimental poets. His translations include Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader (Black Widow Press, 2012); Paul Celan: Selections (University of California Press, 2005); 4X1: Works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour (Inconundrum Press, 2003); and Pppppp: Kurt Schwitters Poems, Performance, Pieces, Proses, Plays, Poetics (Temple University Press, 1994). Of his translations of Paul Celan, poet Michael Palmer said: “Joris has dwelled during the better part of his life in Celan’s words and silences…he has journeyed through the work’s intricacies like very few others.”