Spotlight on the ’19 Travel Fellows: Maia Evrona

ALTA is pleased to spotlight the winners of the 2019 Travel Fellowships, including the fourth 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 judging panel Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, J. Kates, Sandra Kingery, and Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma.

This year, we’re spotlighting each of our five stellar Travel Fellows the final week of National Translation Month. Today, we offer congratulations to 2019 Travel Fellow, Maia Evrona:

Maia-Evrona-Alternate-Author-PhotoOriginally from the Boston area, Maia Evrona writes poetry, as well as prose, ranging from memoir to personal essays to cultural and literary criticism. Nearly a hundred of her translations of individual Yiddish poems have appeared in a variety of venues, along with her own writing.

She grew up with a serious illness, which was not properly diagnosed for many years, a situation which gave her a special conviction in the necessity of the arts and literature. It also gave her an unusual educational history. Unable to attend secondary school and college due to her health, she has nevertheless been writing seriously since adolescence, and was accepted into the Bennington Writing Seminars at the age of twenty, without a bachelor’s degree.

Though Yiddish had been spoken by her grandparents, she did not grow up fluent in the language, and taught it to herself as a teenager, before attending the summer program in Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute in Lithuania. Her translations of Avrom Sutzkever were awarded a fellowship from the NEA in 2016, while her translations of Yoysef Kerler were awarded a fellowship from the National Yiddish Book Center in 2019. She has also published translations of Anna Margolin, Celia Dropkin, Malka Lee and other Yiddish poets, as well as her own poetry in her own English to Yiddish translation. She was cited by Smith College professor Justin Cammy as a representative of a “new generation of Yiddish poet-translators.”

Translating from a specifically Jewish language, while writing in one that is becoming increasingly globalized, has led her to think about ownership of language in ways she might not have otherwise. A Yiddish translator must constantly contend with the misconceptions that burden the Yiddish language and the ways in which it has been marginalized. Evrona finds that she has a unique perspective on marginalization, having grown up not just Jewish and female, but disabled. She frequently notices her translation-related musings fusing with her experience with disability in her own poetry.

Reading Yiddish literature is one of the most effective ways of grasping what was lost in the Holocaust. Evrona’s work as a translator from Yiddish means that she engages with this loss every day, whether translating poems about the Vilna Ghetto, or reflecting on the frustration of being increasingly fluent in a language she rarely has the opportunity to speak.

Evrona has given readings of her work in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. In 2019-2020, she will be writing poetry in Spain and Greece on a joint Fulbright Scholar Award.

Stay tuned as we spotlight our Travel Fellows this week!

If you love the Travel Fellowships and supporting emerging translators, we hope you’ll donate to ALTA’s fall campaign. Any donation from $5 to $5,000 will help ensure that ALTA will be around to support future generations of emerging translators, like our stellar Travel Fellows! 

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