Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bilingual Lansdowne #4

Tonight was Aqua Books' bilingual Lansdowne, where we select a French poet and s/he picks two English poets to read with him/her.

Part of the Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry Reading Series, this event is always our toughest sell...and my favourite event of the series.

Once the poets have been selected, the translation begins. Charles Leblanc very very kindly translates a poem from each of the English poets. And if the French poet doesn't have anything already translated into English, we find a French-to-English poet to translated one of their pieces.

When the work is performed, the English poets put the poem of theirs that was translated at the end of their set. And then s/he either read the French version her/himself or get Charles or the featured French poet to read it.

Tonight, Roger Leveille was the featured poet. He chose Katherena Vermette and Rosanna Deerchild, who identify as Metis and Cree respectively, to read with him. And, like always, Charles translated poems by both English poets. This year, he also read those poems and talked a bit about the translation process, which I always so enjoy.

Kate read poems about little birds and Winnipeg's North End and finished with a long poem about Louis Riel. Rosanna read a suite of poems from the point of view of a smart-ass urban crow.

And Roger read French/English poems from his 1999 collaboration with Tony Tascona but also a segment from the English translation of his French novel, The Setting Lake Sun, which is written from the point of view of a female Metis architect.

I hosted, which felt right, given that I curated the series. Though I wasn't involved with promotion of the series, which started after I left Aqua Books, the Lansdowne is something I was really proud of during the three years that I worked at Aqua.

And it was really really lovely, after the hectic few weeks I've had, to sit and listen to poetry in French and English, to listen to distance between the languages close via Charles' translations, to hear such distinct but vital voices.

And then to stand and lead the applause.

(Also part of the evening was the wistful idea that this would be one of the last performances any of us lousy poets would do at 274 Garry Street...)

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