Kiwi poetry on Italian stage

Victoria University’s Wai-te-ata Press and the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation (NZCLT) have launched Florilegio di Poesia Neozelandese Contemporanea—Best New Zealand Poems (2015) Italian edition, translated by Francesca Benocci.

The publication is the second volume in The NZCLT Collection, a poetry-in-translation series co-sponsored by the NZCLT and Wai-te-ata Press, which aims to share New Zealand poetry with the world through translation. Last year it published Best New Zealand Poems (2014) Chinese edition, translated by Yujing Liang, a postgraduate student in Victoria’s School of Languages and Cultures working with Director of the NZCLT Dr Luo Hui.

Reader in Book History and Director of Wai-te-ata Press Dr Sydney Shep says Italian was chosen for this year’s poetry-in-translation edition due to the emerging interest in, and developing markets for, New Zealand writing in Italian-speaking countries.

This trend has seen a number of Italian translators enrol in Victoria’s PhD in Literary Translation, including the translator of this year’s volume, Francesca Benocci, who is working with Victoria’s inaugural Reader in Translation Studies Dr Marco Sonzogni and Senior Lecturer in Italian Dr Claudia Bernardi. Ms Benocci says that translating New Zealand poets has allowed her to “find shared feelings and needs” despite great geographical and cultural distances.

Dr Shep says that translation is a vehicle for literary works and their embodied ideas, cultures and traditions to travel the world—and New Zealand poets need more of it.

“Because translation is not literal, but rather creative, it gives the opportunity for cultural barriers to be renegotiated and cultural idiosyncrasies to be recommunicated. This sense of cross-cultural mediation is really important—we’re trying to extend the creative conversation into a cross-cultural conversation,” says Dr Shep.

“We want to profile New Zealand writing and to see what New Zealand translators can do to expose that writing through another vehicle, vessel, or voice. This translation series is demonstrating the vibrancy of New Zealand contemporary writing on an international stage.”

The book launch also hosted Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at the University of Oxford Nicola Gardini, in conversation with Dr Simon Perris (Senior Lecturer in Classics) and Bernadette Luciano, Professor of Italian at the University of Auckland. Each guest received a complimentary copy of the edition to help with the dissemination of New Zealand poetry to Italian readers around the world. Director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Sydney Donatella Cannova and the President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce New Zealand Chris Griggs, who enthusiastically supported the event, will also receive copies.

The Best New Zealand Poems (2015) Italian edition features additional forewords from the translator, Francesca Benocci, and the academic who first started translating New Zealand poetry into Italian, Professor Marinella Rocca Longo from the University of Rome III.

Dr Shep says that Wai-te-ata Press commissions Literary Translation Studies PhD students whenever possible, to provide them with an opportunity for worldwide exposure and to be mentored by supervisors throughout the process of translation through to publication.

The publishing of Best New Zealand Poems (2015) Italian edition has been supported by the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation, Wai-te-ata Press, Creative New Zealand, and the Embassy of Italy in New Zealand. Best New Zealand Poems (2015) is edited by John Newton and includes poets Sarah Jane Barnett, Dinah Hawken, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Gregory O’Brien, Vincent O’Sullivan and John Dennison.

Best New Zealand Poems is an annual online publication coordinated through Victoria’s International Institute of Modern Letters featuring 25 poems published by New Zealand writers in a calendar year, and edited by an eminent figure in New Zealand’s literary scene.

Copies of Best New Zealand Poems (2015) Italian edition can be purchased through Wai-te-ata Press.

Professor Gardini spoke with RNZ’s Lynn Freeman on the art of translation during his time in Wellington.