Kelsi Vanada, 2016 ALTA Travel Fellow (Spanish)
Kelsi Vanada is studying Literary Translation in the MFA program at the University of Iowa, and will graduate in the spring. She came to translation by way of her involvement with the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa, while she was studying poetry in the Writers’ Workshop (MFA, 2016). This means that her first experiences with translation were in the context of working closely with visiting writers-in-residency to bring their poems into English. Collaboration is still an important part of any translation project for Kelsi.
Kelsi grew up outside of Denver, Colorado, where she studied English and Spanish at the University of Denver. An important part of her undergraduate career was the semester she spent studying in Copenhagen through DIS, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. While there, Kelsi lived with her Danish family members, learned Danish, and learned as much as possible about the Scandinavian cultures. Following graduation, Kelsi lived another semester abroad while teaching English as a foreign language in Calama, Chile, through the program Inglés Abre Puertas (English Opens Doors).
After teaching Spanish, writing, and poetry in Denver for four years in a K-8 school, Kelsi was accepted to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and felt that for the first time she could call herself a poet and focus fully on her love of creative writing. With her interest in languages, translating the poetry of other language writers seems like a natural next step for Kelsi after studying poetry. She is grateful to have worked under the direction of Nataša Ďurovičová, editor for the IWP (where Kelsi now works as a research assistant), and Aron Aji, head of the MFA in Literary Translation.
Kelsi’s translations of poems by Venezuela poet Natasha Tinacos (IWP, 2014) can be found in Berfrois. Kelsi is currently translating the book La edad de merecer [The Eligible Age] (La Bella Varsovia, 2015) by Spanish poet Berta García Faet; the translation will be published by Song Bridge Press in spring 2017. Faet’s work is feminist, formally innovative, and tradition-breaking—a new kind of confessional poetry that makes poignant the poet’s experience as a female writer.
Kelsi’s other project is a continuation of a translation project started last fall with IWP visiting writer Marie Silkeberg from Sweden. Together they translated a series of poems, “The Cities,” from Silkeberg’s book Till Damaskus [To Damascus] (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2014). These translations won the Asymptote “Close Approximations” contest, judged by Michael Hofmann, in April. It was a great honor, and inspired Kelsi to continue translating the rest of the book with Silkeberg. Till Damaskus was written with Silkeberg’s collaborator, the Syrian-born Palestinian poet Ghayath Almadhoun, as a way of processing the events of the Arab Spring. Hybrid in form and dense in sound, the poems take on questions of immigrant identity, memory, and loss.