Polish Studies

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In the News: The Cauldron

Dec. 8, 2012

Translated poetry kicks off Polish lecture series
Kent State University's Trzeciak sheds insightful light on art of translating poetry
By Amy Szmagala

The politics of translating literature was at the heart of Joanna Trzeciak’s lecture this past Thursday on Nov. 30. The event kicked off a series of talks sponsored by the new Polish Studies Initiative at Cleveland State University.

 In Trzeciak’s lecture, “Reaching for Readers: Polish Poetry and the Moral Economy of Translation,” she spoke about her 2011 book “Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Rozewicz,” in which she translated hundreds of the prolific Polish poet’s work into English.

 “I am fighting against defeatist language — betrayer, translator traitor,” Trzeciak said when asked about ethics of translation.

 Trzeciak likened the process of translation to the intrinsic subjectivity of reading literature.

“What I’m arguing for is a new translation that is trusting the readers,” Trzeciak said. “It is up to us to give meaning to some of these words.”

The Kent State University professor and winner of the 2012 Found in Translation Award said the task of translating Rozewicz’s work took more than eight years to complete.

“I think in translation, you have to see what’s working in another lens,” Trzeciak said.

She often left poems in a drawer for long periods of time, then came back to them.

Translated poems were shown on a screen, including several side by side with the original Polish version. The spacing, form and structure remained consistent in translation. Rozewicz’s layered and complex work covers topics such as the Holocaust, remembrances and the subject of human relationships.

Trzeciak credits him with evolving Polish poetry and treading the fine line between tenderness and sentimentality.

While there may always be different cultural and language-specific meanings to words, Trzeciak reminds us that some things are universal.

“The mother–child relationship is a great example of something that always translates,” Trzeciak said.

Trzeciak serves as associate professor of Russian and Polish Translation in the Institute for Applied Linguistics and the Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies at KSU.

This is the first of three scheduled lectures in a series. The initiative seeks to bring visiting Polish scholars to campus and to develop a Polish Studies program.

For more information, email PolishStudies@csuohio.edu.


In the News: The Cleveland Stater

Dec. 6, 2012

Polish Studies Initiative kicks off lecture series with poetry
By Brandon Blackwell; Follow Reporter Brandon Blackwell on Twitter @blackwelltweets

Cleveland State’s Polish Studies Initiative kicked off its 2012-13 lecture series Nov. 29 with a shot of poetry.

About 20 people gathered in the Student Center to listen to Joanna Trzeciak, assistant professor with Kent State University’s Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies, recite poems by one of Poland’s most lionized artists — Tadeusz Rozewicz.

“He is a man of enormous courage,” Trzeciak said of the 91-year-old poet. “At 24, he came into the Polish scene and changed Polish poetics.”

Trzeciak, a self-professed poetry nut, became an expert on Rozewicz when she compiled and translated a selection of his works for her book “Sobbing Superpower: Selected Poems of Tadeusz Rozewicz.”

Rozewicz’s large body of work includes poems on the Holocaust, consumerism, sexuality and more.

“One of the things that makes Rozewicz so distinct, is that he isn’t afraid of anything,” Trzeciak said.

Trzeciak’s love for poetry began when she was a young girl. Her father made her memorize poems as a form of punishment.

“You can imagine how naughty I was as a child as I had memorized about 600 poems,” she said.

Rozewicz became a seminal figure in Trzeciak’s life, she said.

Trzeciak spoke of “a new economy of translation” after reciting poems.

She described it as a way of trusting the reader to find meaning in poems translated into a non-native language.

“In translation, you have to see what’s lurking in another language,” Trzeciak said, adding that as a translator, she is a reader first and foremost.

It took her about eight years to translate the poems included in “Sobbing Superpower.”
The next Polish Studies lecture is Feb. 28, during which University of Notre Dame

Professor Mikolaj Kunicki will speak on Polish communism.

On April 18, Cleveland State Professor Edward Horowitz, who is also the director of the Polish Studies Initiative, will lecture on the Polish economic crisis.

“The lecture series is a way for us to show different perspectives of Polish society through the humanities and social sciences,” Horowitz said. “It’s also a nice way to engage with the Polish community in Cleveland.”

All lectures are held at 4 p.m. in SC Room 315.