Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Can't Believe They Pay Me to Do This

That is the title of the memoir of the past two weeks of my life.

I'm pretty exhausted. My transition from unemployment to being thrice employed happened overnight, and I didn't get a lot of sleep that night. I haven't had much time to get caught up either, since my mom is coming out for a visit later today. She'll be here until Monday morning, at which point, I start my long distance hurdling sprint again for the week.

Today I start my job as a poet-translator. What's most fascinating about this work is the fact that I don't speak anything other than English. I am, however, a good poet and experienced, confident teacher of children, and these thinks make up for the fact that I might not be the most skill at reading Chinese poems aloud just yet. But that's ok, because a number of the students I'm teaching are Chinese American. I wonder if any of them are from ancient Rome and know how to speak Latin.... hmm...

In all seriousness though, I never considered translation because I thought you had to have some kind magical training. Maybe I am not giving myself enough credit, because I do have some experience with Spanish (I did take the class for six years in middle & high school), but really, translation isn't about being fluent. Knowledge of poetry can bolster your skills as a translator of poetry until the language skills develop. Since most languages won't translate exactly anyway, and poetry often uses strange syntax and surreal images, much of the work of translation is making a choice about language, much like you do when you write in your primary language.

If you are a poet and you haven't tried translating, find yourself a poem in another language, get thyself onto Google Translator and do a rough translation. Then take a look at the poem. It probably won't make total sense, but that's ok. Try Googling phrases. Or translating entire phrases to see if there is more meaning. It's fascinating to see how many options we have with language. It's a wonder we ever communicate anything at all.

My other job is writing about fashion, which seems different, and it is, but it's also translation in a way. I am writing product descriptions for ModCloth, which is super fun because I get to come up with pun-filled names for adorable, vintage-inspired dresses and shoes and then write the fun descriptions. Describing a real solid object in a fun, yet informative way for someone who only has a picture of the object, well, that's translating. And it's a blast. Because I get to write stuff like this. Also, it's super hard to not spend all the money I earn on adorable clothing. I can't believe I haven't bought something yet.

With all this working, I haven't really made much time for writing poetry. It's only been two weeks, but I can see that I need to set aside time for it each day. I'll get the hang of it eventually. I think having long spans of time to write actually hinders my process, because I allow myself to be distracted by other things, rather than focusing on the poem. If I have only 15 minutes, well, then I must get to work.

In fact, I'm going to do that now before I get ready for work. You should try to translate something today.
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