City Lit Blog

Literary Evening Lecture: David Constantine – What my poetry owes to translation

Story added 3rd Oct 2018

Freelance writer, author and translator, David Constantine worked for thirty years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published a dozen volumes of poetry, most recently - 2014 - Elder) and his poetry pamphlet 'For the Love of It' came out this month. He is a translator of Hölderlin, Brecht, Goethe, Kleist, Michaux and Jaccottet. David will be hosting a Literature Evening Lecture at City Lit on Friday 30 November where will read from his poetry. He will also talk about how translating from foreign languages has helped him in his own writing. The evening will include a more general discussion of the need for translation in the making of any nation's poetic language. 

    

We recently caught up with David to find out more about his life and career...

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

I was born in 1944 in Salford, Lancashire, and for thirty years I was a university teacher of German language and literature. My publishing history includes a dozen volumes of poetry (most recently – 2014 – Elder), two novels, Davies (1985) and The Life-Writer (2015); and five collections of short stories. I edited and translated Hölderlin, Goethe, Kleist and Brecht. I was awarded the BBC National and the Frank O’ Connor International Awards (2010, 2013) for my stories. The film ‘45 Years’ was based on my story ‘In Another Country’. With Helen Constantine I edited Modern Poetry in Translation, 2003-12.          

How did you become involved in translating poetry?  

As an undergraduate I occasionally did translations of French or German poems for my own benefit, to understand them better. I did more of that as a postgraduate working on Hölderlin. Thereafter I began to see how it might help me in my own writing.

Tell us about the topic of your talk at City Lit 

I will be reading from my poetry and will also explain how translating from foreign languages has helped me in my own writing. Translation is the closest form of close reading. When you translate a foreign text you learn, as you proceed, what your own language does or can be made to do. The evening will include a more general discussion of the need for translation in the making of any nation's poetic language.

Can you tell us about your new publications coming out in November?  

At that end of November Bloodaxe will publish my Selected Poetry of Hölderlin. This is a greatly enlarged edition of two earlier publications of his work in my translations. The volume also contains, in my English, Hölderlin’s very idiosyncratic versions of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Antigone.

Also in November Norton/ Liveright will publish The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht. This is a volume of more than a thousand of Brecht’s poems, translated by Tom Kuhn and me, most of them not at present readily available in English and many appearing in English for the first time. In my one-day course at City Lit (27 January 2019), Bertolt Brecht: poet in times of revolution, war and exile, I hope to show how important Brecht the poet is to us now, how he may help us better understand our times and our situation.
Smith/ Doorstop have just published For the Love of It, a pamphlet of some recent poems of mine.

The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht

Selected Poetry of Hölderlin

For the Love of It

 

 

Literary Evening Lecture: David Constantine - What my poetry owes to translation

Course Dates: 30/11/18
Time: 18:30 - 20:00
Location: Keeley Street

Come and join us for a stimulating evening of lecture and discussion at our November Literary Evening Lecture, where the writer and translator David Constantine will read from his poetry. He will also talk about how translating from foreign languages has helped him in his own writing. The evening will include a more general discussion of the need for translation in the making of any nation's poetic language. 

Book today

 

Bertolt Brecht: poet in times of revolution, war and exile

Course Dates: 27/01/19
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: Keeley Street

The day, led by the writer and translator David Constantine, will be an introduction to Brecht's life and times and an exploration of a range of his poetry.

Book today