Iain Galbraith, poet, translator and lecturer, will talk on
Figures of Translation in the Poetry of John Burnside
John Burnside’s poetic, much like a translator’s, researches a glimpsed “otherlife of things” that are “gifted with absence / speaking a different tongue” (‘Fields’). A study of the cross-cultural movement of ideas and images (translatio studii) in his poetry, its openness to European philosophies and histories, its ear for American sensibilities, subjects, landscapes and rhythms, can only point up those very hybridities, polysemies, migrations, displacements, reserves of indeterminacy and resistant semiotic spaces whose elucidation pegs out the paradigmatic territory of contemporary translation theory. While John Burnside may not have demonstrated the translator’s legerdemain of ghost-writing books that pretend to contain the work of a writer in words that writer never wrote, it might nonetheless be averred that his poetry (and not only his) is replete with the metaphoricity of translation, bearing witness to the danger and “mystery” (Celan) of encounters between orders, others and languages.
Iain Galbraith’s poems have appeared in the TLS, Poetry Review, PN Review, Edinburgh Review, New Writing and many other journals and books. A winner of the John Dryden Translation Prize and the Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry Translation he is also the editor of five poetry anthologies, while his recent translated books include a selection of W.G. Sebald’s poetry, Across the Land and the Water (Penguin, 2011), John Burnside’s selected poems in German, Versuch über das Licht (Hanser, 2011; a larger selection will appear in 2016), and Jan Wagner’s Self-portrait with a Swarm of Bees (Arc, 2015). He is an occasional lecturer, and in 2014-15 taught Poetics of Translation at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He grew up in Scotland and now lives in Wiesbaden, Germany.