Two Words: The Blog of the Center for the Art of Translation

A Look Back at Arts Education Month

Posted on March 28, 2015, 10:54:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

Starting off the month, the Huffington Post reported that Arts Education is making a comeback in big cities across the country. We’re hoping that we can keep up the momentum in 2015 and add San Francisco and Oakland to the arts education race!

We were blown away by the group of Worcester, Massachusetts high school students who presented their research on bilingual education and Poetry Inside Out in Philadelphia earlier this month! The six students explained how the collaborative process of translating great poetry from around the world changes how bilingual students learn inside and outside the classroom.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has been having its own conversation about the achievement and funding gap

Of course, arts education wouldn’t be possible without the extraordinary teachers who have fought for its survival. NPR turned our attention to Afghanistan to tell the story of one such teacher, Aziz Royesh, who founded a school in Kabul that encourages class discussion, critical thought, music, and arts.

Lawmakers continue to disagree over the No Child Left Behind Act. “No bill is better than a bad bill,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) this month.

And here in the Bay Area, Poetry Inside Out started back up for the spring session, bringing poetry and thoughtful discussion to classrooms throughout Oakland and San Francisco.

And don’t forget, next month is National Poetry Month!

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From the Two Lines Press Blog: PEN Translation Awards Longlist and Two Lines Release Party Photos

Posted on March 17, 2015, 03:22:00 PM by Erin Branagan

We were amazed—-and humbled—-to learn today that two Two Lines Press 2014 books are on the PEN Translation Awards longlist. Baboon, by Naja Marie Aidt (translated by Denise Newman), and Marie NDiaye’s Self-Portrait in Green, translated by Jordan Stump, are in the company of titles from publishing heavyweights like Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NYRB Classics.

Read about it on the Two Lines blog.

From now until March 30, get both longlisted books, PLUS two more Two Lines Press titles, for only $30! With your order, you’ll also get a limited-edition letterpress broadside, so don’t wait!

Also on the Two Lines Press blog: in case you missed last week’s release party, you can check out photos and see copies of the erasures made from pages from Two Lines issue 22.


(erasure by Betsy)

The party featured readings by local translators and authors Daniel Levin Becker, Yael Segalovitz, and Andrea Lingenfelter, plus Two Lines’ own Production Editor Jessica Sevey. Read more here,

 And don’t miss this Thursday’s Two Voices Salon about the books of Elena Ferrante with translator Ann Goldstein and Editor Michael Reynolds.

Because There is No One Right Answer

Posted on March 17, 2015, 02:24:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

The University of Pennsylvania Annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum is host to ethnographers, educators, and academics presenting the latest research and papers. But last month’s meeting saw Poetry Inside Out high school students in the spotlight as well.

Six bilingual students from Worcester, Massachusetts traveled to Philadelphia to share their findings about the program. After being part of Poetry Inside Out workshops over the past few years, the students were asked by a team of faculty from Clark University to conduct their own research on the program's impact on themselves and their classmates.

Through interviews, recordings of classroom discussions, and outside research, the student-researchers delved into the inner workings of Poetry Inside Out’s poetry and translation based literacy curriculum and discovered that they had a lot to say about the program.

“I learned a lot about myself,”
summed up Safa.

“In Poetry Inside Out, self-expression is encouraged. This leads to safe and open communication”
one slide boldly proclaimed. Individual students spoke about the importance of the supportive Poetry Inside Out classroom environment. Once they understood that their diversity was an asset, they made the translation process a collaborative investigation into language and meaning.

“Listening to others helped me clarify my own ideas,”
Elvis explained to the audience.

Safa felt similarly. “I learned how to be open and caring for people’s ideas, experiences, and understanding for things that I might never knew before,” she shared. “I learned to be patient and love myself so I can love and understand others.”

This led the students to another observation: through partnerships based on finding meaning and understanding each other, we practice a "special" listening.

The process was more fruitful, they found, when each student brought something unique to the conversation. In one spectacular moment, the students talked about the difference between “listening” and “hearing.” As Elvis described, “We looked at ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’ from all of our languages--Arabic, Spanish, French…” As the group expert in his or her own language, each student had to figure out how to describe the subtlety of the words’ meaning to each other, collaborating in order to come to consensus.

Because there is no one right answer in Poetry Inside Out, there can be discussions on deep issues like identity, love and religion.

Besides looking at individual words, students discuss the larger meaning of the poems they translate and work to understand what the poet was trying to communicate with certain lines. The poems’ themes push them to reflect on their own understanding of identity and the world around them.

As Elvis told the conference audience, “I learned that bilingual students have a lot to share about themselves.”

We wish them luck as their research continues and congratulate them on their work so far!

Feature: Albanian Poetry in Translation

Posted on March 9, 2015, 03:17:00 PM by Sarah Coolidge

With the Two Lines Launch Party fast approaching, we’re whetting our poetic appetite with some Albanian poetry. In the newest Two Lines issue–issue 22Wayne Miller and Anastas Kapurani reveal excerpts from their beautifully crafted translation of Albanian poet Moikom Zeqo’s Zodiak collection of poems.

Born in 1949, Zeqo lived the majority of his life under the oppressive regime of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania. Until the dissolution of communism in the 1990s, many of his poems were banned because they challenged government ideology.

But Miller and Kapurani are not the only translators of Zeqo’s poetry. Their collaborative effort mirrors that of the many elementary and middle school students who have similarly taken on the momentous task of translation as part of the Poetry Inside Out program. Here is another of Zeqo’s poems–“Cili?”–followed by student translations into both English and Spanish:


Jam njeriu pyll,
njeriu zog,
njeriu det,
dhe njeriu peshk.

Cili i ngjajshëm si unë
do më qëllojë me shigjetë?

Cili—me thoni
më ka futur në rrjetë?


I am the human forest
human bird
human sea
and human fish.

Who like me is going to shoot me
with an arrow?

Who—tell me who—
trapped me in the net?

—Lakevionia, 5th grade PIO student


Yo soy una selva human,
Pájaro humano,
mar humano
y pez humano.

¿Quién, como yo
me va a tirar una flecha?

¿Quién, me diga,
me va a atrapar en la red?

—Estefanía, 5th grade PIO student

If you're in the Bay Area this Wednesday, March 11, stop by the Two Lines launch party at Viracocha in the Mission and get your copy of Two Lines 22 with admission, which includes Wayne Miller and Anastas Kapurani’s translation of Zodiak!

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Why Language Matters

Posted on March 4, 2015, 08:48:00 AM by Sarah Coolidge

When Poetry Inside Out instructor Brian Kirven asked his class of 6th graders at West Marin School why in the world they would even attempt to read and translate a poem from the Mayan language Tzotzil, a student responded, “so it doesn’t disappear.”

It’s true: languages are disappearing quickly, and, alongside them, culture: songs, stories, dances, rituals, and histories. As the Wall Street Journal estimated in its article published in January, the number of languages spoken on earth will likely drop from 6,000 to 600 in the next hundred years. That means losing an average of 54 languages every year!

Earlier this year, when the Center hosted the launch of documentary filmmaker David Grubin’s latest film Language Matters, organizations from around the Bay Area met at San Francisco’s Exploratorium in order to discuss the pervasive threat to endangered languages. Now streaming on, Grubin’s latest film examines how three languages in particular are struggling to survive, with varying degrees of success. The documentary’s host, poet Bob Holman, who was at the Exploratorium event, traveled to Aboriginal Australia, Hawaii, and Wales in an effort to demonstrate why language matters.

Among the speakers at the event was Vince Medina, who spoke passionately about a language rarely talked about but particularly relevant to all of us here in the Bay Area: Chochenyo. Chochenyo is the native language of the East Bay, one of many Ohlone languages that were suppressed through force as immigrants expanded westward into California. The language was thought to be lost until Medina revived it. His story is truly inspirational: he listened to audio recordings, talked to community members, and began using his ancestral language in his daily life, despite the fact that nobody spoke it fluently anymore. Thanks to him, the language is no longer considered extinct, and Medina teaches Chochenyo to children and other community members throughout the region.

Back at West Marin School, Kirven’s students are grappling with the unfamiliar words of “Bolom Chon.” Not only do Kirven’s students realize the potential cultural loss, they understand that they can play an active role in its revival.

Like Medina, the students bring movement and life to the words, chanting them, discussing them, and deciding on their meaning. One group of 6th graders translates the title as “Jaguar Jig,” while another decides on the title “Tiger Talk”. Earlier on in the process, the students acquainted themselves with not only the poem but Maya culture. Kirven tells me, “A community member of Tzeltal Maya descent lent us a couple of jaguar masks, and gave me a rundown of the ‘Bolom Chon’ dance.”

With these visual representations the students are able to contextualize the poem, recognizing the cultural importance of jaguars and the ritual of the dance. Through true engagement, they make personal connections to the poem. “One student felt a kinship with this chant,” Kirven remembers, “and chose a black jaguar for the subject of her own poem, associating its hide with the night and its yellow eyes with the sun.”

We know that language matters. So let’s do something about it.