week poets and translators from many countries
gathered in Yerevan to discuss the fragile
future of poetry and to answer the question,is
it possible to translate a poem and if yes,
Is it possible to translate a poem? That question
became a main topic of "Future of Poetry
Through Translation" international conference
last weekend in Yerevan. The conference - the
first of its kind here - was organized by the
Armenian Center of PEN International Association
and was held at the Ani Hotel.
Russian poet and translator Grigory Kruzhkov
gave a characteristically poetic answer:
"It is possible if a man believes in immortality
of the soul. A poem has a soul and through translation
it is just expressed by another language."
The conference was dedicated to the Targmantchats
holiday - celebrated every second Saturday of
October to commemorate the creation of the Armenian
alphabet and the translation of the Bible into
Translators from several countries attended the
conference, and among topics of discussion was
the very survival of their profession.
Vano Taufer of Slovenia recalled how in the '70s
translations of Solzhenitsin into Slovenian helped
his country understand the political persecutions
of Yugoslavians. Such translations might not be
possible or even necessary now, the translator
"Now the situation has changed," Taufer
said. "Young people know languages and read
books in the original. Besides, publishing houses
prefer to publish bestsellers."
The consequence, Taufer said, is a diminished
role for translators, a profession that has "turned
from a continent into an island".
Armenian poet and writer Vahram Martirosyan said
that the issue of poetry translation is not whether
it is possible to capture the soul of the poem
in a second language. Rather, the larger question
is whether the poem has an audience in any language.
poetess Fatu Ndiaye Sow never heard before
about Armenia and was happy to find open-hearted
people among Armenians.
"Poetry has turned from a religion into
a sect," he said. "Metaphors and rhymes,
poetic genres have run dry. These days there are
many people who have skills in poetry but the
number of people reading poems has decreased in
large quantities. Every poet has several fans
and they make his sect. And the translator is
a priest of that sect."
About 20 speeches were delivered at the conference,
six by foreign participants.
Like others, Senegal poetess Fatu Ndiaye Sow
was in Armenia for the first time. She first heard
of Armenia through Anna Hakobyan, head of the
Armenian chapter of PEN.
"Thanks to Anna I knew about Armenia and
later I read about it in different sources. For
translating any poet, a translator must know the
nation which that poet belongs to because a poem
descends from the way of thinking and reminiscence.
For now my impressions of Armenia are that I think
open-hearted people live here. These meetings
will allow us to know each other better and translate
Translator Nuneh Abrahamyan translated one of
Sow's poems (Sow writes in French) and it became
the first Armenian translation of the literature
In this big heart,
where night burns its ruins hard,
I was walking in the hall of loneliness' dark.
"This conference was a test of our abilities
and it succeeded," Hakobyan said. "Now
we can say for sure that we are able to carry
out conferences during the coming years. Probably
the next conference will be dedicated to the problems
connected with reporting or freedom of speech."
The PEN Association was founded in the 1920s
by the Union of Writers in London. Over time it
expanded to include various professions connected
to the written word.