For the last few years I have been curating the online translation slam on the PEN American Center website. This has meant selecting a foreign-language poet and a pair of younger translators to produce competing translations of a single work by that poet to be posted side-by-side. This feature was inspired by the live translation slam event, traditionally held at the Bowery Poetry Club, that has become a yearly staple of the PEN World Voices Festival. I know all about what it’s like to be part of that one, since I was was one of the participants the first year the event was held at the festival. It’s a lot of fun and tends to get a bit raucous. The online slam is somewhat more decorous. Since it’s online, the discussion is not shouted but written. But online discussions can be great too, and the more people participate in discussing the translations, the more interesting the slam becomes. I would encourage you to check out the latest slam, based on a lovely work by Korean poet Jeong Kkeut-byeol that has been translated twice, by Sora Kim-Russell and Jae Won Chung. See what you think of the translations, and if you’re so moved, post a comment about one or both of them.
Those of you who’ve been following the slam for a while now will immediately see when you click through to the text that change is in the air. The Korean slam is the first to be posted on PEN’s new blog, which is soon to be home to lots of other new content as well. This new content is the explanation for why this Korean slam is going to be the Last One Ever. It’s going to be replaced with something even more exciting. But I can’t tell you what it is yet. Keep watching this space, and expect an announcement in early September. Meanwhile, do enjoy the last of our translation slams in their current form. I’ve really enjoyed curating them.