October 29, 2002
John Felstiner to Speak at Smith College
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-Smith College will
present two lectures by distinguished translator John Felstiner
on Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Neilson Library Browsing Room. Both
events are free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.
During the 4:30 p.m. lecture, titled "Watching Poets on
Their Way Out of English," Felstiner will discuss translations
of the works of American poets by eminent writers from abroad,
including translations of Walt Whitman by Pablo Neruda, Emily
Dickinson by Paul Celan, W.B. Yeats by Yves Bonnefoy and William
Carlos Williams by Octavio Paz and Ernesto Cardenal.
During his 7:30 p.m. talk, "'Speak Through My Words': Translating
Neruda and Celan," Felstiner will discuss his long engagement
with the works of the two world-renowned poets, and he will feature
rare recordings of their voices.
Felstiner's career is characterized by the blurred boundaries
between scholar and artist. An eminent academic and poet-translator,
Felstiner graduated from Harvard and spent three years on the
USS Forrestal before completing his Ph.D. at his alma mater.
Since 1965, he has taught in the English department at Stanford
University, specializing in modern poetry, Jewish literature
and literary translation.
Felstiner has held Rockefeller, Guggenheim, NEH and NEA fellowships,
and been awarded the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal for Non-Fiction,
the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, the British Comparative
Literature Association's first- and second-place awards, as well
as translation prizes from the MLA, the American Translators
Association and PEN West.
Though he has translated many poets, Felstiner is best known
for his work on Neruda and Celan. His renderings of their poems
are not only rhythmically sensitive and linguistically meticulous
but grounded in a deep scholarly understanding of each poem's
historical, literary and personal contexts. Felstiner's double
attention both to artistry and scholarship is further evidenced
in his extensive writing on the process and consequences of the
act of translation, as in "Translating Neruda: The Way to
Macchu Picchu" and "Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew,"
the precedent text to his recent and celebrated "Selected
Poetry and Prose of Paul Celan." Felstiner both performs
the translations and theorizes them, engaging in creation and
interpretation simultaneously. Comparing criticism and translation,
he comments on "the difference between talking the talk
and walking the walk. The translator walks the walk." In
fact, Felstiner does both.
Felstiner's lectures at Smith are co-sponsored by the Smith College
Poetry Center and the departments of Latin American studies and
of Spanish and Portuguese, and his visit to the Valley is supported
by Five College German studies and the Smith College and Amherst
College departments of German. The evening lecture will be followed
by a bookselling and signing. For more information, call Cindy
Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen
Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.