English teacher Jennifer Grotz co-translated poems by Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski, and Open Letter published her first book of poetry translated from Korean.
Two books related to the University of Rochester were shortlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation 2022, which rewards translations of a book of poetry from any language into English.
All i don’t know (World Books Poetry, 2021), the English debut of Jerzy Ficowski’s poetry, has been translated from Polish by Jennifer Grotz, professor of English at the University of Rochester, and Piotr Sommer, Polish poet, critic and publisher.
yell, written by Lee Soho and translated from Korean by Soje, was published by Open Letter Books, the university’s non-profit literary translation press.
A decade-long “labor of love” in preparation
Translate the poems into All i don’t know was a 10-year labor of love for Grotz and Sommer, who met when Sommer arrived as a guest poet at the University’s Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies. “Our collaboration arose out of the great joy we found in reading and talking about Polish and American poetry together,” says Grotz, author of three books of poetry and director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences. Sommer, meanwhile, is recognized as one of the foremost translators of American and British poetry into Polish, including the works of American poet and native of Rochester, New York, John Ashbery.
Grotz and Sommer aimed to translate Ficowski’s most successful poems into English, but many have proven difficult to render – “not only for its poetic and linguistic play and invention with the Polish language, as Piotr explains in the postscript. of the book, but also for the range of subjects in his work, from ancient civilizations to Polish folklore and, more hauntingly, to the Holocaust, ”says Grotz.
Of All i don’t know, Editors Weekly wrote: “These surprising, clear and engaging poems are to be enjoyed over and over again, making Ficowski a poet readers won’t want to miss.” The book was also included as part of poet and former University of Rochester undergraduate Ilya Kaminsky, “A Short List of Books Ilya Kaminsky Liked in 2021”. The list appeared in Poetry Daily, a daily nonprofit anthology of contemporary poetry, which also featured Ficowski’s poem “My Unsurvivor” in December.
A first book of poetry for Open Letter
yell is the first collection of poems by author Lee Soho. It was also the first manuscript selected by Anastasia Nikolis ’20 (PhD) in her role as poetry editor at Open Letter, one of the few publishing houses dedicated to improving access to literature. world in translation for English readers.
Divided into five formally distinct sections, the collection focuses on the violence that speaker-protagonist Kyungjin faces as she navigates a patriarchal world. He won the 2018 Kim Su-young Literary Prize, the highest honor for poetry in Korea.
“When I was browsing some of the poems from the original yell manuscript, I just knew Soje was heading for places and wanted to support this trip in the same way an editor can, ”says Nikolis.
Korean-American poet and translator Don Mee Choi described the book as a “playful and fierce uprising against the patriarchal order, and Soje is a rising star in translating the new wave of innovative feminist and queer poetry in South Korea. “. In a letter to Open Letter subscribers, Nikolis echoes Choi’s praise of Soje by calling them a “talented and innovative translator”, especially in their use of doubled verbs in English for Korean verbs that work. onomatopoeia.
“I love a book of poetry that teaches me something new every time I read it,” says Nikolis, “and yell– with its ferocity, its violence – always teaches me something.
About PEN Awards
The annual PEN American Literary Awards are presented by juries of esteemed and award-winning writers, editors, translators and reviewers. Finalists will be announced in early 2022, and this year’s winners will be honored at the PEN America Literary Awards.
PEN America, a non-profit organization, works to protect free expression in the United States and around the world. Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honored many of the most distinguished voices in literature across a variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and theater.
“The PEN Foundation is an important champion of international literature, so it is particularly gratifying to be shortlisted for the award for best translated poetry book this year,” said Grotz. “Piotr and I are delighted with this news and we hope it will give Ficowski’s poetry the attention it so deserves.”
Nikolis adds: “Open Letter has a solid reputation in the publishing world for bringing innovative and interesting fiction to the United States. But many people in the publishing world don’t realize that the press publishes poetry since its inception in 2008. We are delighted that PEN America has taken notice of Open Letter’s poetry offerings.
Long list of the 2022 PEN Prize for poetry in translation
Exhausted on the Cross, Najwan Darwish (New York Review Books)
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
Edinburgh notebook, Valerie Mejer Caso (Action books)
Translated from the Spanish by Michelle Gil-Montero
All i don’t know, Jerzy Ficowski (World Poetry Books)
Translated from Polish by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer
Words like grain, Duo Duo (Yale University Press)
Translated from Chinese by Lucas Klein
Voices and other poems, Rainer Maria Rilke (Sublunar editions)
Translated from German by Kristofor Minta
I Name Him Me: Selected Poems by Ma Yan, Ma Yan (Ugly Duckling Press)
Translated from Chinese by Stephen Nashef
Outgoing ship, Ursula Andkjær Olsen (Action Books)
Translated from Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen
Whole Eggs, Susana Thénon (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Translated from the Spanish by Rebekah Smith
yell, Lee Soho (Books of Open Letters)
Translated from Korean by Soje
Damascus, Atlantis, Marie Silkeberg (Terra Nova Press)
Translated from Swedish by Kelsi Vanada
A little giant of world literature
Based at the University, Open Letter is one of the few publishers to exclusively offer literature in translation. 10 years, 100 titles and 100,000 books later, Open Letter continues to reinvent the world of literary translation.