Transference is Open for Submissions!

Transference is now accepting submissions of poems translated from—or inspired by—poetry originally written in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Latin and Classical Greek, with accompanying commentary. Submissions relating to the theme of vision/seeing are especially welcome. For this issue, essays on the translation of poetry are also welcomed.

Deadline: April 30. Read current and past issues online and submit at Transference is peer-edited in a blind submission process. Published by the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University.  Write to the editors at

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2020 ALTA Awards Deadlines Extended

After careful consideration of the developing circumstances surrounding COVID-19, ALTA has extended the deadline for its 2020 awards cycle from April 20 to May 4, 2020.

The following prizes are accepting submissions:

Please note that submissions are only accepted through our Submittable portal. The deadline for awards submissions is May 4 at 11:59pm PT. Find out more about ALTA’s awards on the website. Questions may be directed to ALTA’s Communications and Awards Manager Rachael Daum at

If you’re looking for the company of other translation-lovers in these trying times, reach out to the ALTA community: we’re active on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. We have a Facebook group for the ALTA conferences, and ALTA members enjoy access to a member listserv called ALTAlk. Check out this list of ALTA-recommended reads (featuring the winners of these ALTA awards for the past five years). And of course, reach out to your local bookstores and publishers and see if they are holding virtual book clubs, and support them if you can.

We don’t know which challenges you are facing right now. But we send warm, healthy wishes to you, and hopes that if we continue to support each other, we will see this crisis through—together.

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Reading Recommendations from ALTA

No doubt about it: these are unprecedented times. If you’ve found yourself isolated or sheltering at home, perhaps you’ve turned to your bookshelf for comfort. If you’re looking for recommendations of what to read next, why not look to some that are tried and true? Here we’ve gathered all the ALTA-award-winning titles from the past five years to keep you company during this difficult period.

We are humbled and grateful to the translators, authors, publishers, and sponsors who have made these awards possible over the years. We hope you’ll reach out to these fantastic publishers and consider supporting them in these trying times.

2019 Winners

National Translation Award in Prose
WhatsLeftOfTheNightWhat’s Left of the Night
by Ersi Sotiropoulos
translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich
(New Vessel Press)

C.P. Cavafy has been summed up as “a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe.” Ersi Sotiropoulos’s What’s Left of the Night shakes off this cliché with sinuous sentences that describe a man in motion thoroughly enmeshed in the world. She takes us into three days and nights of Cavafy’s European tour in June 1897, as he stays in Paris with his brother and explores the city—and his still-unnamable passions. Moving seamlessly from description to thought to assessment of the poems he’s working on, the story allows us to live, briefly, in this history; in Karen Emmerich’s translation, the prose becomes as luxurious and welcoming as Cavafy’s own poetry.

National Translation Award in Poetry
PanTadeuszPan Tadeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania
by Adam Mickiewicz
translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
(Archipelago Books)

In the early 1830s, fleeing the most recent wave of armed insurrections that destroyed the centuries-old lifeways of his native Poland in the space of a generation, Adam Mickiewicz penned the 450-page verse novel that would be hailed as Europe’s last great national epic. Presented here for the first time in modern English, Johnston’s translation of Pan Tadeusz masterfully captures the exceptional beauty and disarming directness of Mickiewicz’s rhymed couplets. With its riveting narrative propulsion, intertwining plotlines, effortless ironic wit, and lovingly detailed portraits of a bygone gentry, Pan Tadeusz invites comparison with the best works of Byron or Pushkin.

Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize
Autobiography_of_DeathAutobiography of Death
​by Kim Hyesoon
translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi
(New Directions)

The alert and alerting Autobiography of Death by Kim Hyesoon transforms mourning into everyday news of unjust deaths, and into a clarion call for envisioning new life under different rules. To read these poems is to pass through a geography of catastrophe, exclusion, and violence, and to reach their end is to glimpse the necessity for rebirth. Hyesoon’s expansive line, serial composition, and plural address blast open a vital, shamanistic space for the dead to speak with, to, and through the living, and Don Mee Choi’s translations deftly activate a visionary poetry of great speed, volume, and vision. The collaboration between Hyesoon and Choi continues to energize and challenge contemporary world Anglophone poetry into a zone beyond borders.

Italian Prose in Translation Award
Eight-mountainsThe Eight Mountains
by Paolo Cognetti
translated from the Italian by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre
(Atria Publishing Group)

Short-story writer Paolo Cognetti’s first novel—a meditation on the deeper meanings of friendship and family—has become an instant international classic in 38 languages, and for good reason. Probing the themes of male friendship and father-son relations, it casts the mountains in the role of a teacher whose lessons are taught through the challenging, exhilarating and often devastating ascents and descents of life. The characters, so tied to the Italian alps in which they live, are brought to life through gentle description and precise dialogue. Cognetti has described his creative process as “writing from truth,” “like a painter with a palette” as he walks the alpine landscapes, kneading his experience of the land and its natural seasons into words. Poet Simon Carnell and writer Erica Segre capture this foreignness with serenity in their translation, soothingly transforming his lyrical descriptions into a lilting, cascading English.

2018 Winners

National Translation Award in Prose
by Mathias Énard
translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell
(New Directions)

Words from the judges: This virtuosic and engaging meditation on how the ‘Orient’ has shaped Western thought and art and been shaped in turn is also a love letter to countries and cultures that have been damaged nearly beyond recognition. Over the course of a sleepless night, a Viennese musicologist broods over an ominous diagnosis and recalls with bittersweet wryness his unrequited love for Sarah, a brilliant scholar of Middle Eastern cultures. He punctuates his monologue with adventures and misadventures of a colorful cast of historical figures. Charlotte Mandell conveys the exhilaration, complexity and intellectual relish of Énard’s prose with every ounce of the original’s energy.

National Translation Award in Poetry
3rdMillenniumHeart_FINAL-smallThird-Millennium Heart
by Ursula Andkjær Olsen
translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen
(Action Books)

Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen’s compelling work travels through dark chambers of desire, power, and creation, conjuring up a feminist space where culture and nature wage war with one another, where psychology and anatomy merge to create a uniquely modern mytho-poetics. Katrine Øgaard Jensen’s masterful translation has a strong rhythm all its own, and captures the book’s jarring quality in a remarkably smooth rendering. By the end of this insidious text, the reader is just as “namedrunk” as the book’s enigmatic lyrical subject, and discovers that their own “heartspace,” too, has been torn open, dissected, and beautifully recreated.

Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize
qiu.Crocodile.hires2_1024x1024Notes of a Crocodile
​by Qiu Miaojin
translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, first published in Taiwan in 1994, is a queer novel in both senses of the adjective. It tells the story of a “woman who loves women,” while also queering the conventions of the novel to chart a non-linear, non-binary, playfully fragmented, and multi-genre course of its own. Translator Bonnie Huie deftly navigates Qui’s stylistic twists and turn, artfully balancing ontological philosophy against the diction and hijinks of a group of college-aged misfits chafing against social expectations. While fundamentally a story about misfits—crocodiles who “adopted a homemade ‘human suit’ before running away from home”—it is a perfect fit and an overdue addition to the ever-growing body of queer literature from around the world.

Italian Prose in Translation Award
For_Isabel_-_Cover_For Isabel, A Mandala
by Antonio Tabucchi
translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
(Archipelago Books)

Translated by Elizabeth Harris, Antonio Tabucchi’s For Isabel, A Mandala leads the reader through a “mandala of consciousness.” This novella is at once a mystery, a magical-realist fairy tale, and a travelogue. As we follow the protagonist in his search for the lost Isabel, we move towards the center of the mystery through the mandala’s concentric circles, meeting strange and intriguing characters who seep out of the past or appear in incongruous haunts around Lisbon and the surrounding territory where the book takes place. The book is filled with evocative images that seem to float free of mere plot constraints: a string bag of captive frogs let loose in the family garden, a saxophonist in a jazz bar playing to a drinker of absinthe, a single mourner at a faked funeral in a sailor’s chapel by the sea. Harris carries the delicate magic of consciousness from Italian into English with deceptive ease. She works with admirable precision to capture the voices of the different speakers and the details of the shifting context, yet she never sacrifices the dreamy texture of the writing.

Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation
bleedingBleeding From All 5 Senses
by Mario Santiago Papasquiaro
translated from the Spanish by Cole Heinowitz
(published in 2020 by White Pine Press)

The raucous energy and desperate inventiveness of Bleeding From All 5 Senses takes on a second life in Heinowitz’s sinuous translations of Papasquiaro. Melding persistent social and emotional urgency, Bleeding from All 5 Senses affectively embodies something vital of our tumultuous world.

2017 Winners

National Translation Award in Prose
by Antonio di Benedetto
translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen

Words from the judges: How fortunate we are to finally have this classic of twentieth-century Argentine literature  in English. Zama, “pacifier of Indians” and a servant of the Spanish crown in eighteenth-century colonial America, aches for a better post in a city where he might send for his wife and their children. As his prospects dim, Zama descends into economic and moral penury, his rapidly deteriorating situation revealing not only his own prejudices but those behind the Spanish government’s changing relationship to its colonies. Esther Allen’s superb translation captures the remarkable atmosphere and existential anguish of Di Benedetto’s masterwork.

National Translation Award in Poetry
by Galo Ghigliotto
translated from the Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky

Words from the judges: In Valdivia, a haunting fusion of history, dreamscape, and memory, Chilean Galo Ghigliotto’s speaker offers a complex vision of his provincial birth city as the site of famous battles, a devastating 1960 earthquake (with its ensuing floods), and eerie, otherworldly phenomena amid the scenario of domestic violence that plagued his own family.  Written as a series of forty-three poems tellingly presented out of sequence, Valdivia serves as a sort of poetic catharsis for these afflictions which, embedded in reality, can scarcely pull clear of the imagination.  Daniel Borzutzky vividly renders this melding of fact, fiction, and the vagaries of recollection in a lucid and precise English.

Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize
notwritten_wNot Written Words
​by Xi Xi
translated from the Chinese by Jennifer Feeley
(Zephyr Press)

Jennifer Feeley’s superb translation captures all of the creativity, intellect, and playfulness in the verse of premier Hong Kong poet Xi Xi. In these skillfully wrought and daring poems, Feeley employs all the tools of the English language, including unforced end and internal rhyme, alliteration, wordplay, and references that run the gamut from nursery rhymes and fairy tales to fine art to contemporary politics. In deceptively lighthearted poems such as “Excerpt from a Feminist Dictionary,” the verse rings as powerfully in the English as it does in the original Chinese.

Italian Prose in Translation Award
Balestrini_VogliamoTutto_r6We Want Everything
by Nanni Balestrini
translated from the Italian by Matthew Holden
(Verso Books)

Nanni Balestrini’s We Want Everything (1971), translated for the first time into English by Matt Holden, is unabashedly political—a novel, as Rachel Kushner says in her introduction, that is deeply original and that “succeeds on three different levels simultaneously, as a work of astounding art, a document of history, and a political analysis that remains resonant to the contradictions of the present.” In English, the complexity and nuance of the narrative voice, shifting seamlessly between the spoken word and descriptions of a new political movement, are of course the work of Matt Holden; his excellent translation remains remarkably true to Balestrini’s original while never faltering as a work of gritty art.

Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation
maximThe Joyous Science: Selected Poems of Maxim Amelin
by Maxim Amelin
translated from the Russian by Derek Mong and Anne O. Fisher
(published in 2018 by White Pine Press)

Mong and Fisher have succeeded in finding a distinctive voice in English for Amelin, a poet steeped in the philosophical traditions and poetic culture of Russia.  There is poetry in Mong and Fisher’s translation, wrought in judicious and playful word choice, internal rhyme, and with a sensitive ear for song, sense, and soulfulness.  There are even places where these translations equal or, perhaps, surpass the original in their crispness and linguistic innovation, making this collection not only a remarkable accomplishment of poetic translation but truly a pleasure to read.

2016 Winners

National Translation Award in Prose
tristano_dies_coverTristano Dies: A Life
by Antonio Tabucchi
translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
(Archipelago Books)

In Antonio Tabucchi’s Tristano Dies, a dying Italian Resistance hero has called a writer to his bedside to tell him the story not of his life—a life of love and war, fidelity and betrayal—but of the mind that lived it. Elizabeth Harris’s English translation is that rare and thrilling instance of transcendent translation that stands, independently, on the same high level as the original, a level Harris sustains through this mesmerizing and thought-provoking text.

National Translation Award in Poetry
rilkeshakecoverRilke Shake
by Angélica Freitas
translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan
(Phoneme Media)

Freitas’ title, a pun on milkshake, suggests in just three syllables the method of this madly exuberant book. The author shakes and swirls literary modernism (Moore, Stein, Pound, Bishop, Pessoa, Rilke) in a lexical blender of slang, neologisms (“dismallarmament”), spells, and loans from other languages. Hilary Kaplan zooms around each linguistic curve along with the poet, finding inventive solutions to bring into English the sounds, rhythms, play, and verve of the Portuguese. Only this omnivorous appetite for the flavors of words, Freitas implies, can save us from a two-dimensional understanding of history, poetry, and ourselves.

Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize
sagawacoverspdThe Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa
​by Chika Sagawa
translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu
(Canarium Books)

Sagawa Chika is hardly a household name in Japan, yet she was an important member of the prewar Modernist movement in Japan, intimately connected to some of the biggest names in Japanese literature at the time, and in many ways was far more groundbreaking than the men around her. In Sawako Nakayasu she has found a translator more than equipped to bring her poems into English for the first time.

Italian Prose in Translation Award
Layout 1The Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante
translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
(Europa Editions)

In The Story of the Lost Child, the pseudonymous Elena Ferrante brings full circle her visceral and compelling four-part saga, The Brilliant Friend. Through this cycle of novels, the author traces in acid the close yet conflicted bond between two women, Lila and Elena, from their childhood in the poor quarters of Naples to young adulthood, separation, and the disappearance of Lila decades later. Each character struggles to escape the searing oppression of the city’s lower depths, but each will eventually succumb. Translator Ann Goldstein proves more than equal to the challenge of capturing the grit, color and dynamic of Ferrante’s prose, and has contributed immeasurably to the quartet’s breakaway success.

Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation
9781945680076Purifications or the Sign of Retaliation
by Myriam Fraga
translated from the Portuguese by Chloe Hill
(published in 2017 by White Pine Press)

These are dense, florid, strange, and beautiful poems that rewrite the Greek pantheon into a feminist Brazilian landscape. The collection makes its way from these abstract, timeless myths to vibrant present tense, the journey culminating with a moving final poem-elegy for modern-day bard: John Lennon. The translator has created a beautiful voice in English, paying special attention to the clean sound, powerful movement, and aching pulse of each line, making this translation a pleasure to read and re-read. Since the poet Myriam Fraga passed away this year, the Cliff Becker prize not only represents a special opportunity to introduce an innovative and powerful lyric voice in translation to an English readership, but also allows us space to mourn the loss of a great poet, just as we’ve discovered her.

2015 Winners

National Translation Award in Prose
Al-Koni-New WawNew Waw, Saharan Oasis
by Ibrahim al-Koni
translated from the Arabic by William Hutchins
(University of Texas Press)

William M. Hutchins’ translation of New Waw: Saharan Oasis masterfully channels the poetic rhythms of Ibrahim al-Koni’s tale of a group of Tuareg, struggling with their evolution from a nomadic tribe to a settled community and the tensions that inevitably arise. Legends, fables, prophecies and tribal laws, expressed in lyrical, metaphorical language, give a glimpse into the group’s traditions and the Tuareg mythical paradise oasis, Waw.

National Translation Award in Poetry
Celan-BreathturnBreathturn into Timestead
by Paul Celan
translated from the German by Pierre Joris
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

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.

Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize
Something Crosses My MindSomething Crosses My Mind
by Wang Xiaoni
translated from the Chinese by Eleanor Goodman
(Zephyr Press)

“I rush down the stairs,/ pull open the door,/ dash about in the spring sunlight…” So begins this exquisite collection of translations by Eleanor Goodman of poems composed over the past several decades by Wang Xiaoni. In what follows we are taken out into the streets and on cross-country trains, into villages, cities and markets; we peep out through the windows of the poet’s home and sense the nostalgia invoked by a simple potato. Here is a poetry of the everyday, written in delicate yet deceptively simple language, and translated beautifully into its like in this first collection of Wang’s work to appear in English. Something Crosses My Mind offers up the refreshing voice of a poet forging her own path, neither shunning the political nor dwelling in the lyrical but gently and resolutely exploring her world in her writing

Italian Prose in Translation Award
by Claudio Magris
translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel
(Yale University Press)

If you’re looking for the company of other translation-lovers, reach out to the ALTA community: we’re active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We have a Facebook group for the ALTA conferences, and ALTA members enjoy access to a member listserv called ALTAlk. Of course, reach out to your local bookstores and publishers and see if they are holding virtual book clubs, and support them if you can.

We don’t know which challenges you are facing right now. But we send warm, healthy wishes to you, and hopes that if we continue to support each other, we will see this crisis through — together.

And if you love these titles, we hope you’ll consider submitting to the 2020 ALTA awards cycle. We’re accepting submissions via our Submittable portal through April 20, 2020. Submit today and help us keep recognizing the excellent work translators, authors, and publishers do to contribute to the world of literary translation.

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Rolling Admissions for Kenyon Review’s Summer Translation Workshop Closing Soon!


Kenyon Review’s summer translation workshop is open for submissions! The workshop will take place July 12-18, 2020 and applications are rolling, but closing soon.

From the website:
The week-long non-language-specific workshop offers an opportunity for aspiring and mid-career literary translators with a variety of professional backgrounds to couple their creative writing interests with their passion for working between languages. Writers focus on close reading and experimentation with language and style from a strong second language into English. The workshop is conducted seminar-style and activities focus on literary translation as a cross-cultural, creative endeavor, using theoretical readings and examples of works of master translators as guides. By the end of the week, writers will have finished a polished translation that they may continue to prepare for publication.

Learn more here, and apply to have the chance to work with workshop leaders Katherine M. Hedeen, Elizabeth Lowe, and fellows (ALTA’s own Program Manager!) Kelsi Vanada and Bruna Dantas Lobato!

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ALTA43 Conference Hotel Bookings Open!

ALTA’s 43rd annual conference, ALTA43: In Between, is taking place this year from MarriottNovember 11-14 in our new hometown of Tucson, AZ. We’re excited to announce that the conference will be held at the Tucson Marriott University Park in Tucson, Arizona, and that conference hotel bookings are open!

The Tucson Marriott University Park is located in the trendy Main Gate Square District, between the University of Arizona’s campus and Tucson’s downtown. ALTA has secured a block of rooms in the Tucson Marriott University Park for conference attendees. For your convenience, we encourage you to book your hotel reservations in advance.

When you book your room through our link, you not only get a great deal on your room ($179), but you also support ALTA, as the Marriott gives a portion of that room rate to our organization!

Find out more about the conference hotel and how to get to Tucson on our webpage, and be sure to use the special booking link to reserve your stay.

And remember: if you want to see your panel, roundtable, or workshop at ALTA43, submit your session proposal by April 20, and submit applications for the Bilingual Reading Series at the conference by May 26!

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