By Carolyn Tipton

If ever there were a perfect place to launch a book of poetry in translation, the conference of the American Literary Translators Association is surely it!

This is where translators get together once a year to share their latest works—their new renderings of Classical Greek plays, contemporary Italian novels, Chinese workers’ poetry, medieval French narrative romances, Argentinian laments for the disappeared, Syrian outcries, Norwegian pastorals, Dadaist expostulations, Neapolitan song…

This is a meeting of devoted colleagues. We all keep track of each other’s progress. We bring our current drafts year after year. Our friends root for us as our manuscripts near completion.

And so it was with great pleasure that I stood on the dais at this year’s conference last weekend, accepting the Cliff Becker Translation Prize from my respected publisher, White Pine, for my newly published book, Returnings: Poems of Love and Distance by Rafael Alberti.

The culminating moments came when I read a selection of poems. Glancing up between the lines, I found myself looking out at a crowd of friends, all literary translators, all familiar with the struggles of trying to re-create in English a foreign-language work.

The whole room beamed at me and I saw the delight on my friends’ faces as my words landed with them. Afterwards, throughout the whole rest of the conference, my colleagues kept coming up to me and congratulating me, telling me how much they had enjoyed the poems.

They seemed to take pride in my accomplishment as though it were their own—which, in a way, it was, because these were the people who had helped me, guided me, encouraged me over the years it took to complete this translation.

Thank you, friends and colleagues! As we go on to our next projects, our next challenges, I will try to do the same for you.

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