Bridgework

The Center for Art in Translation connects cultures through language -- and fun

This year's edition will be called "Ghosts." Olivia Sears, the journal's editor and publisher, says that she and her colleagues originally chose the word to refer to looking back, to history, as well as to the way the future haunts us; it may also symbolize the notion that a translation is a ghost of the original, a semblance of the piece's soul in different form. As Sears explains, "We had no idea there'd be so much bloodshed, so much war" -- so many ghosts produced in just a few months. The publication includes everything from war fiction to ghost stories, Holocaust poetry to meditations on family history.

If previous editions are any indication, "Ghosts" will be gorgeous -- yet sad. In "Cells," the translators of the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote, "Ultimately this translation can at best be an accompaniment to the original, the way reading the score of an aria can enhance our appreciation of it, but can never approach or replace the beauty of hearing it sung in the original language." The bittersweet truth of every copy of Two Linesis that unless you can understand or experience the original, you may miss something in the translation.

That's why you have to go to the launch party. When "Ghosts" comes out on May 29, the center will throw a big bash at the Hotel Rex, including six to 10 readers of originals andtranslations, as well as some students reading their work from the Poetry Inside Out project. It's open to the public, there'll be food and wine, and it's free.

It may not be readily apparent that reading poetry and fiction from other cultures is a political act. But understanding another group's art comes close to understanding its soul -- and the better we understand each other, the less we hate each other. The Center for Art in Translation gets the word out that communication between cultures is not only vital but fun, and then puts money where its mouth is by bringing the bridge of language directly into schools. Now's the time to cross that bridge. As Pablo Neruda wrote in the poem "The Flag" (from a bilingual edition of The Captain's Verses): "... conmigo levántate/ y salgamos reunidos/ a luchar cuerpo a cuerpo/ contra las telarañas del malvado." Or, as Donald D. Walsh translates: "... stand up with me/ and let us go off together/ to fight face to face/ against the devil's webs."

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