Meet the ’18 Fellows: Brian Sneeden

ALTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 ALTA Travel Fellowships, including the third annual Peter K. Jansen Memorial Travel Fellowship! Each year, ALTA provides four to six $1,000 fellowships to emerging translators to attend the annual ALTA conference. This year’s winners were selected by Marguerite Feitlowitz, Margarit T. Ordukhanyan, Emma Ramadan, and Haider Shahbaz. Congratulations to this year’s Travel Fellow, Brian Sneeden:

Brian Sneeden PicWhile completing his MFA in creative writing at the University of Virginia, Brian was given a book by a friend which contained poems by George Seferis in translation, which opened him to the world of Modern Greek poetry and authors such as C.P. Cavafy, Odysseas Elytis, and Rhea Galanaki. Wanting to experience the works behind the translations, he enrolled in courses in Modern Greek, and in 2015 he began in a PhD in English at the University of Connecticut, where he studies literary translation.

In 2016 he had the opportunity to meet contemporary Greek poet and performance artist Phoebe Giannisi, and began working on translating her poetry. His first attempts were experimental: playing and replaying audio recordings of the poet’s readings to help restage the poems’ internal rhyme, alliteration, and metrical variation in English. The struggle—and pleasure—was learning from the poems themselves how to convey their inventiveness of sound and spell-cadences. Working closely with the poet, Brian translated Giannisi’s collection of poems, Homerica, which was published in December by World Poetry Books and selected by Anne Carson as a favorite book of 2017.

As translator, Brian’s primary goal is to create translations that recreate the poem’s sense of rhythm and music. His work stems from a belief that a translation of a poem must, first, be a viable poem in the target language. In addition to translation, Brian also writes poetry, and his first book of poems, Last City, was published in February by Carnegie Mellon University Press. His current projects include a second collection of poems by Phoebe Giannisi titled Cicada, which received a 2018 PEN/Heim grant, and translations of work by Athens-based poet George Prevedourakis.

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