ALTA: adventures in Dinkytown

October 20, 2008

I suppose we weren’t really in Dinkytown for the bulk of the conference, but still the neighborhood’s name is so excellent I find myself making excuses to insert it into every possible context. The fine and fearless crew of eXchanges traveled to Minneapolis, MN for the 31st annual ALTA conference this weekend. (For complete schedule of the conference, click here). eXchanges was represented in nearly every element of the conference: panels were moderated by former eXchanges editors Diana Thow, Becka McKay, Cris Mattison and Emily Goedde gave a paper on using translation as an ESL teaching tool. Current editor Andrea Rosenberg read her work as an ALTA fellow, and eXchanges translators read their work as part of bilingual readings and as participants in other panels. In fact, the only element of the conference where eXchanges was sorely lacking was the Declamacion (we’ll have to work on that for next year, everyone! we could do a choral version of “o solo mio” with Russell Valentino as our soloist)… All in all, ALTA did serve as a creative crossroads and it was fantastic to finally put faces to so many wonderful names.

One of the highlights of the conference for this humble (and highly erratic) blogger was the “book exhibit”– which gathered something like 300 books recently published in translation for review and purchase. Not only were the books stunning visually, often with gorgeous attention paid to the material aesthetic of the book itself, but the sheer quantity of them was also impressive and encouraging. True, it was no Barnes and Noble, but the ratio of books that I wanted to read vs. books I did not want to read was really astounding; there were a ton of really desirable books crammed onto a few tables. I ended up with Graywolf’s “New European Poets” anthology (out of curiosity) and Ingeborg Bachmann’s Collected poems, “Darkness Spoken,” translated by Peter Filkins and published by Zephyr press. I wished I could have bought many more than I did. A lasting image: Natasa Durovicova walking to her car, followed by the “book exhibit”s sole employee who struggled with a cardboard box filled to the brim with Natasa’s purchases.

Other highlights: Astrid Cabral‘s poetry (made accessible to my non-Portuguese-speaking self courtesy of Alexis Levitin and Two Lines), fruitful discussion surrounding mistranslations of feminist (though the sign on the door said feministy) text and the role of the editor (lead by our own Leah Leone); heated debate about the function of anthologies of translated literature (does it help or hurt to provide the reader with such “representations” of the literature of a certain culture?) &etc.

Truly, it was an honor and a blast to attend. See y’all in Pasadena next year…

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