To wrap up Winter Quarter, on March 11, 2021, Professor Tony Geist and his Spanish Translation Workshop class, SPAN 408, held a virtual Bilingual Poetry Reading as a part of the series Crossroads: A Dialogue Between the Global South and the Global North. This poetry reading was the third Crossroads event held by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. Present at this event, along with Professor Tony Geist and the 26 Spanish students, were poets Marisa Martinez Pérsico from Argentina, Federico Díaz Granados from Colombia, Ana Rossetti from Spain, and Luis Muñoz also from Spain, along with many community members.
To kick off the event, Professor Geist gave a warm welcome in both Spanish and English, and he was followed up by students Sandra Esquivel and Alexa Abrahamian who explained the structure of the course and shared the students’ perspective on the quarter.
Over ten weeks, students worked in small teams, twice a week translating a variety of poems from these four poets. After crafting multiple drafts, students were able to collaborate with the poets themselves and receive specific feedback. From discussions about tone to passionate debates about word choice, the student teams grew to care deeply about their work. Investing significant thought, time, and effort, students were challenged to create translations polished enough to present to the poets themselves at this final event.
Throughout the Bilingual Poetry Reading, after pairs of students introduced each poet, the poets read their original poems in Spanish and then students followed with their English translations. This back-and-forth reading highlighted the rich works from these talented poets, and also the hard work of the students throughout the quarter. Students felt challenged, tasked with translating across both language and culture, but the words of affirmation and pride from the poets was validating and greatly appreciated by the students.
The poetry reading not only served to showcase the talents of the poets and students, but it served as a high note in this virtual world. While we cannot all be together in person, events such as this allow teachers and students from all parts of the world to come together for rich conversation and storytelling.
At the end of the poetry readings, participants conversed about topics such as the different messages conveyed across languages, poetry in the pandemic, and the ever-changing nature of poetry. During a notable moment in the conversation, the poets mentioned that the students’ questions, such as “Why did you choose this specific word?” or “What is the significance behind this line?” forced them to think back to when they first wrote the poems in order to find the answers. The four poets were challenged to unpack the significance of their poems and reflect on how the world has evolved since the poems were written. To close the show, Federico Díaz Granados left the students with a final message, “Continue the conversation.”
The students of SPAN 408 would like to thank Professor Tony Geist and all of the generous poets who made this class possible. We did not simply learn how to translate and understand poetry, but we gained an appreciation for poetry and its many forms.
By: Emily Martin