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Symposium to discuss challenges, rewards of poetry translation

How does one translate a poem? In an attempt to provide answers, the department of languages at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host "Mission Impossible? Translating Poetry — Example: German to English," a symposium set for May 1-4 in the university's Davies Center and Hibbard and Centennial halls.

All symposium events are free and open to UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff, and the general public.

"The challenges of translating may be surprising, even when working between two related languages such as German and English," said Johannes Strohschänk, UW-Eau Claire professor of German and coordinator of the symposium. "They can serve as examples for the translation from more distant languages, such as Arabic or Chinese. The symposium, therefore, addresses poetry lovers of all languages and cultures, from both campus and the community."

Two guest scholars — nationally acclaimed poets and translators — will discuss the challenges as well as the rewards of poetry translation:

  • Graham Foust is the author of six books of poems, including "To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems" (Flood Editions 2013), a finalist for the Believer Poetry Award, and "Time Down to Mind" (Flood Editions, 2015). Foust is an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the English department at the University of Denver.
  • Samuel Frederick is the author of the monograph "Narratives Unsettled: Digression in Robert Walser, Thomas Bernhard, and Adalbert Stifter" (Northwestern UP 2012). He also has published numerous articles on German-language literature as well as on cinema. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming "Companion to Robert Walser" (Northwestern UP). He is an associate professor of German at The Pennsylvania State University.

Together, Foust and Frederick have translated three books by the late German poet Ernst Meister, including "Wallless Space" (Wave Books, 2014).

The symposium features the following events over a four-day period:

  • May 1, 5:30 p.m., Ojibwe Ballroom, Davies Center: Welcome reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by a 6:30 p.m. panel discussion, "Is Poetry Still Relevant?" with Foust, Frederick, Lopamudra Basu (professor of English, UW-Stout) and Viktorija Bilić (assistant professor of German, translation and interpreting studies, UW-Milwaukee).
  • May 2 and 3, various times and locations: Master classes in UW-Eau Claire's departments of languages and English, featuring discussions led by Foust and Frederick. All discussions will be led in English; visitors are welcome to attend most master classes. Visit the symposium website for a detailed schedule and visitor information.
  • May 3, 7:30 p.m., Dakota Ballroom, Davies Center: UW-Eau Claire's 11th annual International Poetry Reading (more information).
  • May 4, 5 p.m., The Dulany, Davies Center: A 5 p.m. dinner reception (free, but online signup required) and a 6:30 p.m. presentation by Foust and Frederick, "English Baptism by Fire — How Much Justice Can We Do Ernst Meister?" (including readings from the presenters' translations of Ernst Meister).

"Mission Impossible? Translating Poetry — Example: German to English" was made possible with generous support from UW-Eau Claire's departments of languages, English, and geography and anthropology; College of Arts and Sciences; Office of Research and Sponsored Programs; and Council for Internationalization and Global Engagement; as well as the Goethe-Institut Chicago.

For more information about the symposium, visit or contact Johannes Strohschänk, symposium coordinator, at or 715-836-4287.