Spotlight on the ’19 Travel Fellows: Gnaomi Siemens

ALTA is pleased to announce 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, Gnaomi Siemens:

Siemens, GnaomiStudying with the likes of master translators Monica de la Torre, Edith Grossman, David Hinton, and Susan Bernofsky, at Columbia Univsity’s School of The Arts, Gnaomi flirted with translation projects in Spanish and French, but it was a chance substitution in a poetry workshop that led to her eventual unexpected exploration of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Professor Patricia Dailey, a medievalist and specialist in medieval women’s mystical texts and Anglo-Saxon literature, was filling in for the late poet Mark Strand, and introduced among other things, a couple of poems from The Exeter Book by various translators. It was Seamus Heaney’s translation of Deor that led Gnaomi to commit  the next few years to researching and translating a collection of poems from The Exeter Book. It was amazing to her how poems written down some time around the 10th century, that come from an even older oral tradition, can still be fresh and relevant. She was especially drawn to the poem “The Wife’s Lament” and was led to center her collection on this and other iterations of the female voice. She is currently working with UK artist, Morag Eaton of Foldyard Gallery, in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, to make prints for her collection The Wife’s Lament: New Translations From Old English. This year Gnaomi had the great honor of reading from her collection at The British Library’s spectacular Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War exhibition in London, and was able to see the The Exeter Book manuscript in person. The Wife’s Lament project also spawned a screenplay, Ghost, about a lower east side bartender who gets ghosted by a significant other and leaves the city for the Canadian Maritimes, where she encounters a character from a 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem.

Other UK collaborations currently in the works include a translation of  Zen koans from the Chinese for composer Michael Warboys; and Ephemeris, a collection of horoscopes translated from the Old Scots manuscript The Calendar of The Shepherds, an almanac style of publication popular in the late 1400’s containing things like remedies, religious musings, and astrological information, along with some spectacular woodcuts.

Gnaomi Siemens is a poet and translator based in New York City.  Her manuscript The Errant was a finalist for GASHER Journal’s first book prize, and The Poetry Society of New York selected her as poet-in-residence at The New York Public Library’s iconic 42nd St. branch. She is currently at work on her second collection of poetry, a novel, and is on the look out for a few good Sumerian scholars. Her dream project is to translate the poems of the ancient Sumerian poet and priestess, Enheduana.

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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