Out of 65 entrants, Katherine M. Hedeen and Olivia Lott have been selected as the winners of the Wisconsin Poetry Series’ inaugural translation competition, for their translation of three volumes of Venezuelan poet Juan Calzadilla’s work, Dictated by the Pack, Bad Manners, and The Supernatural Contradictions. They will receive $1,500, and the collection will be published this fall by the University of Wisconsin Press. In addition, Bill Johnston has been named a finalist, and his translation of Polish poet Julia Fiedorczuk’s Psalms will also be published this fall.
Forrest Gander, a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer and the translator of more than twenty books, served as the judge of this year’s contest. Gander’s latest book is Twice Alive: An Ecology of Intimacies. Among his recent translations are It Must Be a Misunderstanding by Coral Bracho, Names and Rivers by Shuri Kido (with Tomoyuki Endo), Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, and Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura, winner of the Best Translated Book Award. Gander’s essays have appeared in The Nation, the Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Library of Congress; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Guggenheim, Howard, United States Artists, and Whiting Foundations.
Katherine M. Hedeen is a translator and essayist. A specialist in Latin American poetry, she has translated some of the most respected voices from the region into English. Her latest book-length translations include prepoems in postspanish by Jorgenrique Adoum, Book of the Cold by Antonio Gamoneda, Every Beat Is Secret by Fina García Marruz, Almost Obscene by Raúl Gómez Jattin, and rebel matter by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. Her work has been a finalist for both the Best Translated Book Award and the National Translation Award. She is a recipient of two NEA Translation Grants in the US and a PEN Translates award in the UK. A managing editor for Action Books, Hedeen is a professor of Spanish at Kenyon College. More information can be found at www.katherinemhedeen.com.
Olivia Lott is a translator and literary scholar. She is the translator or co-translator of Raúl Gómez Jattin’s Almost Obscene, Lucía Estrada’s Katabasis, and Soleida Ríos’s The Dirty Text. Her translations have received recognitions from the Academy of American Poets, PEN America, and Words Without Borders. She holds a PhD in Hispanic studies and is a specialist in 1960s Latin America, neo-avant-garde poetry and poetics, and translation studies; her scholarly writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from PMLA, Revista Hispánica Moderna, and Translation Studies. Lott is a visiting assistant professor of Spanish at Washington and Lee University. More information can be found at www.oliviamlott.com.
Juan Calzadilla is one of Venezuela’s most celebrated poets, painters, and art critics. He is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and, in 1996, was awarded Venezuela’s National Prize for the Visual Arts. His work, across both mediums, is characterized by political consciousness and formal innovation; prominent images include the surrealist chaos of urban space, the violent dehumanization of uneven modernity, and the abject probing of social and aesthetic status quos. In 1961, he cofounded the radical neo-avant-garde collective El Techo de la Ballena (The Roof of the Whale). This omnibus volume brings together the three poetry collections he published with the group between 1962 and 1967, and it marks the first U.S. edition of Calzadilla’s work available in English-language translation.
About the winning collection, Gander says, “Venezuelan poet Juan Calzadilla, cofounder of The Roof of the Whale—one of those sthenic artistic collectives bent on waking up the staid cultures of various Latin American countries during the sixties and seventies—addressed his poems to a specific audience during a momentous time; and yet his poems feel as though they were written last week precisely for us. Unvarnished, unimproved, shamanistic, his poems exude a raw, tumultuous energy that legendary translator Katherine Hedeen and her savvy co-translator Olivia Lott catch every drop of. But be careful, reader. Don’t start this book at night; you not only won’t sleep a wink, but you may find yourself far from home—as far as the Caracas of your imagination—rushing through ill-lit streets in a frenzy.”
Bill Johnston received the 2019 National Translation Award in Poetry for his rendering of Adam Mickiewicz’s epic narrative poem in rhyming couplets, Pan Tadeusz. He has translated more than forty books from Polish and French, including work by Tadeusz Różewicz, Wiesław Myśliwski, Tomasz Różycki, Jean Giono, and Jeanne Benameur. His other awards include the Best Translated Book Award, the PEN Translation Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches literary translation at Indiana University.
Julia Fiedorczuk is one of Poland’s leading poets. She was awarded the 2018 Szymborska Prize, Poland’s most prestigious poetry award, for Psalmy (Psalms), and has received many other honors, including the Hubert Burda Prize and the Polish Association of Book Publishers award for best debut. The author of six volumes of poetry, two novels, a collection of short stories, and three critical books, Fiedorczuk is a professor of American studies and a cofounder of the Environmental Humanities Center at Warsaw University. Her work, both creative and academic, focuses on the relationship between humans and their more-than-human environments. Her poems have been translated into many languages, including books in Swedish, Spanish, Ukrainian, Serbian, and English. Her poetry collection Oxygen, also translated by Bill Johnston, was published by Zephyr Books in 2017. Fiedorczuk has also translated the poetry of numerous American poets, including Wallace Stevens, Laura Riding, and Forrest Gander.
“Winner of the Szymborska Prize, Poland’s most prestigious poetry award, Julia Fiedorczuk is, deservingly, an international literary star who writes distinctively across genres,” Gander says. “In this innovative, formally restless collection, the divine and bacterial, children and rivers, war and eros mix—kaleidoscopically—in unsettling poems that serve as hymns to the sacrality of life—all life, even the life of rocks. Somehow, I don’t know how, Johnston’s translation catches the music, the vowel rhyme, the staggered, restless phrasings of the originals, and Fiedorczuk’s poignant, broken tones of supplication and gratitude.”
Winners of this year’s Felix Pollak, Brittingham, and Four Lakes Prizes—as well as the runners-up—will be announced later this winter. Submissions for the next Wisconsin Poetry Series competition open on July 15, 2023.
About the University of Wisconsin Press
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The Wisconsin Poetry Series was founded in 1985 by series editor Ron Wallace. Current series editors are Sean Bishop and Jesse Lee Kercheval. For more information on the series and the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html.