Open Letter to Europe / Europe, Where Have You Misplaced Love?
Swedish-to-English translation of 2,700-word poem addressing contemporary political climate in Europe around migration, borders, and dislocation.
Description of project
The international festival Days of Poetry and Wine, in collaboration with Berlin-based Allianz Kulturstiftung, produced the Letter to Europe project in 2018. Each year, the festival’s curators pick a prominent poet and give her or him an opportunity to address Europe and shine a spotlight on the problems they consider the most pressing. This year, the laureate is the Swedish poet Athena Farrokhzad. The letter, translated from the Swedish by Jennifer Hayashida, was read publicly at the opening of the festival and published across multiple international platforms. This translation project, a Swedish-to-English translation of Athena Farrokhzad’s “Brev till Europa” (“Letter to Europe”), commissioned in 2018 for the Slovenian poetry festival Days of Poetry and Wine, engages with a number of my current research questions pertaining to how translation is a useful mode of analysis in the political present. Drawing thematically and formally upon Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 classic “America,” Farrokhzad’s poem simultaneously interrogates the ongoing European crisis around racist nationalism(s) and refugee displacement, while at the same time echoing Ginsberg’s critique of the (US) nation-state along axes of domestic disenfranchisement and military imperialism in particular. As evinced in Farrokhzad’s text, these political critiques remain relevant, even urgent, and in addition warrant analytic expansion. Interestingly, Farrokhzad’s poem was read by some as plagiarizing Ginsberg, and the ensuing public debate prompted additional discussion concerning the role of the (non-white and feminist) poet as a public intellectual, engaging transhistorically - and transnationally - with the function of poetry as a mode of political analysis. As the translator, I of course worked in dialgoue with both Ginsberg and Farrokhzad’s languaging, yet the ensuing debate did not engage with questions of translation - at all. This analytic inattention to translation as a mode of transfer - or disruption - speaks to my ongoing investigation surrounding how translation can be imagined as an instrument of political disruption, with particular attention to how notions of infidelity can be deployed in service of a more expansive and insurgent translational horizon.
Type of work
Days of Poetry and Wine in Ptuj, Slovenia & Freeman’s / Literary Hub online journal
Link to web site