About the Project
Your Language My Ear is a translation symposium that brings together Russian and American poets, along with American scholars, translators and students of Russian poetry, for intensive translation of contemporary poetry from Russian to English and vice versa at the University of Pennsylvania. We have held three symposia since 2011, and plan to host our fourth in the 2021-22 academic year.
Our innovative practice involves virtual group collaboration on draft translations via a document cloud, involving multiple participants who each bring their own unique skills to bear—from bilingual scholars, students and translators, to poets who may speak only one language, and everything in between. After some months of this virtual labor, the physical gathering brings everyone together over a number of days to work in small groups to perfect these draft translations, and to present them in readings to the public in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Past events have resulted in multiple publications in books and poetry journals, some of which are listed on the “Publications” page of this site.
The first Your Language My Ear (YLME) took place in the spring of 2011, when a grant from the Open World Program of CEC ArtsLink (New York, NY), supplemented by funds from the University of Pennsylvania Global Initiatives and from Kelly Writers House, brought eight Russian poets to Penn. Intense brainstorming between Maya Vinokour (NYU), then a graduate student in the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, and Kevin M. F. Platt (Penn) hit upon the virtual/physical YLME translation practice, which, to everyone’s surprise and gratification, worked brilliantly. The program and photo archive from that event are included in this site on the relevant pages, and a recording of our final public reading is archived on our PennSound page.
In the spring of 2015, with the support of a Mellon Cross-Cultural Conferences Grant from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, as well as from Kelly Writers House and other Penn departments and programs, we repeated the symposium with five new Russian poets, perfecting the event’s organization, in particular with regard to documentation of our work. The Wexler Studio at Kelly Writers House allowed us to produce archival recordings of poetry and interviews with the participant poets, which are available via PennSound. Photos and other materials are archived on the relevant pages.
Most recently, in the spring of 2019 we were selected this spring as recipients of a Provosts Interdisciplinary Grant in the inaugural year of the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation of the University of Pennsylvania. In collaboration with Princeton University, we brought five new poets to our two campuses. Our institutional sponsors in 2019 also included: at Princeton University: the Bain-Swiggett Fund (English Department), the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Humanities Council, the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), and the Princeton Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (REEES); and at the University of Pennsylvania: the University Research Foundation, the Department of English, the Department of Russian and East European Studies, the Program in Comparative Literature, and Writers Without Borders (Kelly Writers House). As in the previous iteration of the event, we produced multiple archival recordings of poetry and interviews in the Wexler Studio at Kelly Writers House. Those recordings, as well as recordings of our public performances are available via PennSound. Also see the archive of photos and other materials on this site.
Our sponsors and partners include: