Picture of Scottish Mountains

Ceasing Never

geopoetics, ecopoetics and the poetry of place

Helen Boden and Elizabeth Rimmer
Eco-Poetry in Translation: breakfast – a sort-of summary. Can others who were there correct any factual errors & add anything?
Speakers: Maria Armental, Kharaini Barokka, Niall O’Gallagher, Ignacio Cartagena Nunez
• The concept of ‘language justice’ was elaborated and discussed
• The ‘colonial’ separation of human & nature through the prism of translation – this was a helpful and interesting addition to the familiar idea that Judeo-Christian philosophy caused the current disjunction {which I have some difficulty with (E.)}
• The right of speakers of indigenous languages not to be translated – the ‘right to opacity’ (which E. expanded to mean also the right of indigenous speakers to work in their own languages). The right of indigenous peoples not to share knowledge or insights on demand. Someone used the phrase ‘translation as capture’ which reminded E. of Christine de Luca talking about people who ‘collected’ minority languages without engaging with the culture or the place of origin.
• This raised the question of whether an indigenous language can only talk about its native place. Again, E. remembered Christine de Luca questioning whether readers of poetry in Shetlandic only want nostalgic or nature poems. The panel resisted this fiercely, and quoted some translations from Catalan to Gaelic, Spanish to Shetlandic. A question was asked about suppressed languages being used for new genres e.g. the Orcadian science fiction (Deep Wheel Orcadia) or the Gaelic play Shrapnel – a gritty crime story set in Glasgow
• The importance of attention to context – the different implications of words which may be similar – the word ‘countryside’ reflects different realities in different countries, and the dichotomy ‘up-river’ / ‘downriver’ serves a specific geographical purpose in Indonesia
• Ecopoetics’ etym.: ‘the making of a household’, or the making of the place in which we are” (Annie Rutherford)
• When language shares its space with another that would make it obsolete. A suggestion that Ian Crichton Smith collaborated with the erasure of Gaelic by providing translations. Speakers noted that the colonised could also be colonisers, as for instance, Scottish people displaced by the Clearances colluding with the British Empire.
• Form as resistance to translation for instance social contexts of genre – a pantoum is a poetic exercise here, but originally was a social form, involving ‘battles’ (like rap?)
• Ecopoetry makes things more complex, richer – a poem holds 2 [simultaneous] possibilities [together]
• Microfocus on one landscape may actually have more universal reference – ‘Niall Campbell’s poems about his childhood home of South Uist do not create a romantic and exotic place to be sentimental about; they create the vivid sense of that locality because he is at home there, but they are as much about the experience of being at home anywhere as they are about that place. That is the root of grounded poetry – no matter where you’re from, everyone’s local. https://www.burnedthumb.com/grounded-poetry/
• Poetry of External (natural) world (Kesson, Dunn)

There was a reference to Violent Phenomena: 21 Essays on Translation (Tilted Axis Press 2022 9781911284789), to which Kharaini Barokka contributed, and which deals with many of these issues.