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

Your 2015 PEN Translation Award Winner!

Posted on May 14, 2015, 10:42:00 AM by Erin Branagan

If you haven't heard the news already, we are proud, delighted, and thrilled to announce that Denise Newman has won the 2015 PEN Translation Prize for her translation of Naja Marie Aidt's Baboon (published by Two Lines Press).

Here's an excerpt from the judges' comments:

“From its first line, Denise Newman’s translation of Baboon announces that its readers will be transported to unexpected, bewildering places, and that the journey will at times be abrupt, even disconcerting….If the reader’s transit into Aidt’s narrative world is often jarring, Newman’s agile and compelling translation of her prose into English provides steadfast footing. One can imagine the challenge of conveying the psychological depths just barely concealed beneath Aidt’s measured words, and Newman accomplishes this feat with remarkable skill. It is impossible to miss the urgency and deep humanity of each of these stories, even as the spare descriptions of extreme scenarios push the reader far into unfamiliar territory.”

You can read the full announcement on the PEN website, or check out one of the stories from Baboon.

If you haven't already, order your copy of the book now!

Read more reviews of Baboon on the Two Lines Press blog, and listen to Naja Marie Aidt and Denise Newman talk about translating the book.

You can also check out Naja Marie Aidt's recent review of another Two Lines Press title, Marie NDiaye's Self-Portrait in Green.

Don't miss out on future award winners from Two Lines Press! Subscribe now and get five titles for only $40.



From its first line, Denise Newman’s translation of Baboon announces that its readers will be transported to unexpected, bewildering places, and that the journey will at times be abrupt, even disconcerting. - See more at:
From its first line, Denise Newman’s translation of Baboon announces that its readers will be transported to unexpected, bewildering places, and that the journey will at times be abrupt, even disconcerting. - See more at:
From its first line, Denise Newman’s translation of Baboon announces that its readers will be transported to unexpected, bewildering places, and that the journey will at times be abrupt, even disconcerting. - See more at:
From its first line, Denise Newman’s translation of Baboon announces that its readers will be transported to unexpected, bewildering places, and that the journey will at times be abrupt, even disconcerting. - See more at:

Great Books for Cinco de Mayo

Posted on May 5, 2015, 12:33:00 PM by Erin Branagan

Happy Cinco de Mayo! (not Mexican Independence Day, the holiday commemorates the Mexican defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862)

How about celebrating with some great literature? We’ve got audio from our April 13 event with rising Mexican author Yuri Herrera in conversation with Daniel Alarcón, and you can check out Herrera’s stunning book Signs Preceding the End of the World.

Among our upcoming May Two Voices events, we’ll be hosting another Mexican author, Mario Bellatin, along with poet and translator David Shook on Monday, May 18 at the amazing Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco.

Let us know if you’ll be there, and read about our other events this month!

Go all out and listen to audio of a Two Voices reading with two of Mexico’s most vital women writers, Carmen Boullosa and Pura López Colomé. Boullosa’s new novel Texas: The Great Theft was recently released by fellow translation publisher Deep Vellum Press.

In our Poetry Inside Out education program, students have read and translated iconic poems by Mexican and Mexican-American poets, including David Huerta, Alberto Blanco, Elias Nandino, and Gina Valdés.

Perhaps the best-known Mexican poet is Octavio Paz, who fought in the Spanish Civil War and published more than eighty volumes of poetry and essays throughout his lifetime. Here’s a 3rd grade Poetry Inside Out student’s translation of Paz’s poem “Reversíble”:


In space
          I am
inside of myself
outside of myself
         I am
outside of myself
         in the space
        is this space
outside of itself
am I
        in the space
and forever going

photo still from the film
Cinco de Mayo: The Battle

When a Convention Creates Community

Posted on May 4, 2015, 03:24:00 PM by Marthine Satris

As we pulled our suitcases through the Minneapolis airport on our way to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference, I noticed a scrolling sign that announced, RAIN TAXI WELCOMES AWP ATTENDEES. Oh, I thought, so this is what it’s like. Not even out of the airport yet, and poetry, literature, and the love of reading were part of the fabric of the day.

Writers blanketed Minneapolis, as did the snow, which the weather report had neglected to mention. Snow fell for two days in mid-April, to the surprise of Californians and the resignation of Bostonians. But there were plenty of bars, cafes, and restaurants to take refuge in. And every one of them seemed to be hosting a reading organized by an esteemed press or journal. I kept catching the tail ends of readings and hearing only snippets; when there are so many events going on at the same time, you can end up sitting on a bench outside a bar, paralyzed by the array of possibilities and by the geography of an unfamiliar city.

As an editor I was thrilled to meet even a tiny percentage of the thirteen thousand book lovers who descended upon Minneapolis for AWP’s annual convention. Writers, one hopes, are the most voracious and adventurous of readers, and at Two Lines, those readers are the core of our audience. Sumita Chakraborty, the Assistant Poetry Editor of one of our favorite journals, AGNI, swung by to say hello, picked up Naja Marie Aidt’s Baboon, read one line, and was so caught by it she had to buy the book immediately. Making that personal connection, sharing our books with someone who will fall headfirst into them, is exactly why we come to AWP.

We forged bonds with writers, teachers, and program administrators interested in raising translation’s profile in the writing community. Two students of the University of Arkansas MFA in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Translation nearly burst out of their skin with excitement to discover Two Lines Press for the first time. Just like the Rain Taxi sign at the airport, the great enthusiasm our fellow AWP-ers showed for beautiful books and translated literature’s future in the US turned a convention into a community.

Meeting with your peers from all over the country is a precious opportunity. The internet gives us the illusion of closeness—I can tweet at writers and editors all over the world and they can respond in seconds—but having the chance to talk with translators and other editors face-to-face creates a human connection in the world of an art mediated by paper or screen. With the small press world spread far and wide, those happenstance connections sometimes seem reserved for AWP.

On my way out on Saturday evening I came across Danielle Dutton, the publisher of the St. Louis-based Dorothy Project. In the darkening hall, we discussed the practicalities of shipping and storing books, the biggest headache for all of us invested in the future of print. I’ve had her press’s owl magnet on my fridge for a few years and am an admirer of what is essentially a one woman show—she publishes stylish, adventurous fiction, only two books a year, and Danielle’s precise eye means that each book is something unexpected and wonderful. The collection of stories In The Time Of The Blue Ball by Manuela Draeger, translated from the French by Brian Evenson and Valerie Evenson, is a Dorothy book. As the publisher of Marie NDiaye, we at Two Lines share an affinity with the Dorothy Project for off-kilter stories by French writers. And despite the feverish hoarseness I felt after days of high-energy interactions, that quiet moment of connection highlighted the openness and communality of the world of literary publishing as it’s practiced by small presses. A shared sense of purpose to serve writers and readers by helping them find each other was the defining element of AWP for me.

Check out a photo of the airport kiosk

AWP Translation Bookfair Bingo

Two Lines Press audio: Baboon author Naja Marie Aidt and translator Denise Newman

A Look Back At April, National Poetry Month

Posted on April 30, 2015, 11:34:00 AM by Sarah Coolidge and Erin Branagan

In the spirit of National Poetry Month, Bob Holman (host of the Language Matters documentary) and other poets brought poetry to the streets of New York.

Is poetry dead?

We don’t think so.

“Poetry will outlive us.”

From the education world, some promising news for bilingual education in Indiana.

U.S. senators are still working on a revision of the No Child Left Behind act outlining national education policy and priorities.

And in case you missed the fabulous news from Two Lines Press, our books were among the finalists for 3 literary awards!

Baboon and Self-Portrait in Green are finalists for the 2015 PEN Translation Prize. Winners will be announced at the PEN World Voices Festival on May 13.

Baboon is also on the Best Translated Book Award longlist. Winners to be announced on May 27 during Book Expo America.

And Self-Portrait in Green is a finalist for a Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Firecracker Award for Creative Non-fiction. Winners will be announced May 27.

Be sure to check Facebook and Twitter to see which Two Lines Press books have won.

If you haven't read the books, our SPECIAL SUBSCRIPTION OFFER ENDS TOMORROW, MAY 1! Buy a 2014 subscription in the next 24 hours and you'll get 4 books for $30, PLUS a free broadside.

You can celebrate poetry, prose, AND translation at your local indie bookstore on Independent Bookstore Day THIS SATURDAY, May 2. Formerly California Bookstore Day, the festivities go national this year with over 400 bookstores participating (find a store in your area here). We’ll be at Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco with a fun Two Lines Press erasure. Hope to see you there!

More Notes From a Poetry Inside Out Classroom

Posted on April 14, 2015, 02:27:00 PM by Lilian Autler

(Read Part 1 of Lilian's Poetry inside Out adventures here) The next time I met with the fifth graders at Peralta Elementary School, they were ready to take on a new challenge. While we translated our next poem, “Dos cuerpos” by Mexican poet Octavio Paz, I asked the students, what are these two bodies? The poem contains many evocative images and metaphors for the “two bodies, face to face” mentioned in the first line without ever explicitly saying who or what the bodies are. The students’ responses were as varied as they were creative: the moon and the earth, two lovers, the earth and the sky, Adam and Eve at the beginning of time, anybody from dogs to angels.

Here is one student’s translation of the poem:

Two spirits
Two spirits face to face
are at moments two waves
and the night is their ocean.

Two spirits face to face
are at moments two stones
and the night is their desert.

Two spirits face to face
are at moments roots
within the night that intertwines them.

Two spirits face to face
are at moments a knife
and the night, a spark.

Two spirits face to face
are two stars which fall
within the hollow sky.

The students had enjoyed the tableau activity so much that we did it again, but on a more ambitious scale. The classroom teacher prepared an extra-long session during which the students worked together in groups to “translate” one stanza of the poem into different media.

Each group created a tableau: they painted backdrops, arranged their bodies into physical sculptures of the poem, and read the stanza aloud in both Spanish and English, drawing from their translations. During that 90-minute class, the students created vivid performances that represented their visual, kinetic, and literary interpretations of the poem.

Essential to the activity’s success was the discussion the students had at the outset about how they would collaborate to accomplish this task. The classroom teacher suggested they assign roles within the group (director, artist, actor, etc.), but the students were not convinced. So she facilitated a conversation about the pros and cons of different ways of working together, and they ended up agreeing that they did not want pre-assigned roles, but instead preferred to work it out themselves.

Collaboration is one of the most challenging and constructive aspects of Poetry Inside Out. If we want students to have rich discussions and innovative ideas, we need to take the time to talk about and support collaboration. Once we do that, it’s amazing where their imaginations can take them.

Notes From a Poetry Inside Out Classroom

Posted on April 7, 2015, 03:32:00 PM by Lilian Autler

Our class is large and lively: 29 ten and eleven year olds packed into Portable D. At this small, dynamic school in North Oakland, creative teachers integrate the arts into their classrooms and curriculum every day. As a Poetry Inside Out teaching artist, I spent the fall working with fifth grade students as they read and translated poems from around the world.

Together, the students and I talked about poetic translation and experimenting with its possible forms. Translation from one language to another, yes, but also translation from words to images, translation from the page to our voices and to our bodies.

During our second week, the students translated Salvatore Quasimodo’s short poem Ed e súbito sera from Italian to English.

Here are some of their translations:

Along with the stars suddenly comes nightfall
Everyone is alone in the heart of the earth
Pierced with the brilliant light of heaven
Swiftly dusk has gone and a new day has arisen.

And it is suddenly twilight
Everyone is from the center of the earth
Stabbed by a source of light
And it is suddenly twilight.

And so it is nightfall
All solo, from the core of the earth
Pierced by one ray of sun
And it is night.

Suddenly dusk
Everyone is of the heart of the world
Scarred by a ray of sun
And it is suddenly dusk.

The students loved the poem’s imagery, so we decided to translate the poem further from English into tableaux, physical sculptures in which their bodies represented the objects and sentiments of the poem.

While we were discussing the poem as a class, the students kept returning to the word “twilight,” one of the possible synonyms for the Italian word sera. Some of the students weren’t sure what it meant, and others were finding it difficult to explain. This collaborative effort to define “twilight” led to a fantastic outpouring of metaphors and similes, and the classroom teacher was so impressed that she asked the students to illustrate the words they had come up with.

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!

infographic credit

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!

photo credit