PAGE 6

INTERNATIONAL
QU'EST
CE
QUE
C'EST, xr/EIRDO
?
POET PAMELA BBOWN ATT,ENDED
THE FRANCO-ENGLISH POETRY FESTIVAL IN PARIS AND WHITES HEBE
ABOUT THE HAZARDS OF TRANSLATION...
T
I
n
June
lhis year. the six-
Iteenth
annual Festival
Franco-Anglais de Poesie
was held in Paris at the
well-appointed Maison
des dcrivainS, not far from
the Mus6e D'Orsay.
The live day event is
essentially- a poetry
translation and performance festival.
This year the invited poets came from
Algeria, Canada, France., Great Britain,
Ireland, Scotland, the USA and from
Australia, with myself as its representa-
tive. thanks to the support of the
International Promotions Program of the
Literature Board.
The Festival is. coordinated by the
Paris based
Qu6becois
poet, editor and
translaior
Jacqes
Rancourt. In the past, it
has been anended by many well-known
writers such as Margaret Atwood. Elaine
Feinstein, August Kleinzhaler,'Denise
Levertov, Michael Ondaatje, Ron Padgett
and many others and several Australians
including
Judith
Rodriguez, Tom
Shapcott, Chris Vallace-Crabbe and Alan
\7earne.
Unlike the usual literary festival
where the writer gives a
reading or perhaps
preSents a thematic paper
i-.;'
and answers a few ques-
tions from the audience, this
event entails quite a degree
of hard slog. We we,re
required to translate each
others' poems from French into
English and vice versa before
the festival began. Then, in Paris,
we workshopped the translations
ly
(discoursing
mostly in French) in
intensive daily sessions so as to
produce the best possible versions.
In the workshops we found that
the focus usually centred on finding
solutions to the kind of language
problems inherent to the broad realm
of cultural difference given our diverse
nationalities, For instance, in French
theie can be a poetic language pafticu-
lar only to poetry which is not part
of general usage. In
Qu6becois
there are words
and expressions which
don't exist in French. Add
to this the idiomatic diffi-
culties of the noun-rich
English language as used
by American, Australian,
English, Irish and Scottish
poets and the profound complications of
translation could take forever to resolve.
So, the discussions were always vigorous
and occasionally; to great relief,
collapsed into simple hilarity.
'Qu'est ce que c'est, weirdo?'
'Un
zarbi .'
'Non, non, c'est un cingl6l
'Non, jinsiste,
dans ce contexte, c'est
un zarbil'
The workshop process was a literal
experience of cultural exchange and per-
haps the thoroughness of that process is
never evident in the resulting translations
The contributions made to this exchange
broadened our knowledge of the poetic
literature of each others' countries.
There was an impressive and, for the
poets, flattering public exhibition of
paintings, collages and drawings
illustrating the work of each participant.
A group of young French composers,
musicians and singers had composed
pieces also based on the participants'
texfs. Each evening these pieces were
part of the public performances at which
we read poems chosen from the day s
workshop.
The festival culminated in an outdoor
concert before a large,. convivial
audience of writers. translators. teachers.
linguisls. artists, expatriates, musicians,
students. publishers and people
generally interested in poetry. This was a
truly enjoyable event after the long days
of discussion and as darkness doesn't fa1l
until around ten thirty.on summer nights
in Paris, the atmosphere was appropri-
ately balmy.
Jacques
Rancourt will publish the
translations and some of the drawings in
the next edition of La Traducti?re, rhe
bi-lingual. magazine which he edits. o