Friday, October 15, 2010

Reading Aloud

Last night, four of my translator colleagues and friends (Amanda Powell, Ibrahim Muhawi, Karen McPherson, Adrienne Mitchell) read with me on the wonderful Tsunami Books stage. We heard poetry and prose both funny and dark. Work just out (Adrienne's translation of Beautiful and Dark, by Rosa Montero) and work about to appear (Ibrahim's translation of Darwish's Journal of an Ordinary Grief; Karen's translations of Louise Warren's poems). Amanda generously shared work in progress (a novel by Uriel Quesada), as did Karen (Louise Dupré, Louise Warren). I read from Beyond the Islands, by Alicia Yánez Cossío, due out next summer.

I think we should read aloud to each other more often.

First because it's fun. (I love reading aloud to my children; why stop when the kids begin reading to themselves?) But the warm glow of satisfaction I'm feeling bundles the fun with so many other reasons for reading together.

There's the corrective--reading as revision. I heard my own translation differently, reading it aloud (one or two places I might tweak? A question here and there as to whether it was funnier out loud or on the page?). I heard it also in the response of the audience--laughing, shifting, quiet--and the bits people mentioned afterward.

There's revisiting, rereading. I had read Adrienne's translation when it came out. Now it was a pleasure to hear it in her voice, rather than my own reading-in-my-head voice, and to visualize those stark, surprising images out of the near darkness of the bookstore reading room.

There's the shortcut: with so much to read, I could take an evening to pause, to begin to understand writers whose work I had never read, to dip into other traditions, other voices, than those that usually fill my work and reading life. I have never read Darwish, or Warren, or Dupré, and without translation I never could, because I don't read Arabic or French. We often describe our projects to one another; this was a chance to jump in.

There's the company. Reading is solitary--and I love solitude, and quiet--but sometimes it's good to be reminded that others love that solitude, sometimes a shared solitude, as well.

Reading aloud together felt like permission to dabble, to sample, to meet, to enjoy, to worry, to shudder, to acknowledge: it was all there.

Thanks to everyone who read and everyone who listened. Thanks to our generous host. I hope we can do it again soon.

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