The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that the recipient of this year’s WPR Creative Fellowship is Rosa Alcalá for her project “Beyond Opposing Pages: Poets and Their Translators in Performance.” She will receive a $5,000 stipend and a one-week residency at the Eliot House in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
It also gives us immense pleasure to announce that Gbenga Adesina has been selected as the recipient of this year’s WPR Creative Grant for his project “Re-Memory.” He will receive a stipend of $2,500.
Both winners will receive year-long access to the Poetry Room (and a range of other Harvard libraries and resources), as well as extensive research support from the curatorial staff. We look forward to welcoming them during the 2023-2024 academic year.
About the Project: During her fellowship, poet and translator Rosa Alcalá will study WPR audio and video recordings of poets reading alongside their translators “to explore how the relationship between poet and translator, between original and translation, and between these and the audience, is revealed beyond the page. By noting the interplay of texts and bodies, the project will consider how a text is shaped not only by its oral rendering but also by the physical presence of the poet and translator, taking into account differences in gender, race, ethnicity, age, gesture, accent, voice, etc.”
Informed by her examination of improvisation in Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña, Alcalá will also pay attention to “the surplus texts created through preambles or exchanges between poet and translator, as well as the ways conventions related to literary translation are upset or reinforced within the space of the reading.” Working mainly with recordings in Spanish and English, Alcalá plans to translate her observations into a multilingual poem essay that she will include in fray, a poetry manuscript that explores notions of translation that pervade her earlier work, and that derive from both her personal experience and work as a translator of Latin American poetry.
About the Recipient: Rosa Alcalá is a poet and translator from Paterson, New Jersey. About her most recent book of poems, the New York Times writes, “[MyOTHER TONGUE captures] the messy emotions and miscommunications that move between languages” and is a reminder of “how little precedent there is for honest writing [about mothers and daughters], compared with the epic traditions of fathers and sons.”
Her poems and translations have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Harper’s, The Nation, Poetry, Best American Poetry, and American Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement. She is the recipient of a 2023 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant to Artists and a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. The translator of several books by Latin American poets, her book Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña was runner-up for a PEN Translation Award. She is also the editor and co-translator of New & Selected Poems of Cecilia Vicuña. The DeWetter Endowed Chair in Poetry at the University of Texas at El Paso, she has taught in the Department of Creative Writing and Bilingual MFA Program for nearly 20 years. Her fourth book of poems, YOU, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press.
PHOTO CREDIT: Margarita Mejía
About the Project: Of “Re-Memory,” Adesina writes: “In 1991, during preparatory procedures for the construction of a new Federal office building at 290 Broadway, New York, a sprawling, forgotten burial ground of free and enslaved African and African American women, men, and infants who had lived and died in 18th century colonial New York was unearthed. The burial ground contained over 15,000 intact skeletal remains and over 400 burial mounds, each a startling, delicate, haunting, and precise story. This project is to return voices to these bones. With M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! and Alice Oswald’s Memorial as formal models, the project will be multimodal, experimental, fragmentary, elegiac, and kinetic on the page (spatial dimensions as performance) and off the page (performances that require a commune, a chorus).”
Adesina is interested in “the narrative afterlife of interred colonial legacies, especially in places our eyes are not attuned to look. Public memory is an antiphonal dance. A hide and seek between the living and the dead. What then, this project seeks to ask, is the nature of this elusive and ghostly relationship between the living and the dead in the topography, architecture, psyche, and history of a city, and by extension a nation, especially a nation whose expertise is forgetting.”
About the Recipient: Gbenga Adesina is a Nigerian poet and essayist. He received his MFA from New York University, where he was a Goldwater Fellow and was mentored by Yusef Komunyakaa. His chapbook Painter of Water was published as part of the New-Generation African Poets series (Akashic Books), and his poem “Across the Sea: A Sequence” won the 2020 Narrative Prize.
Adesina has received fellowships and support from Poets House, New York, the Fine Arts Work Center and the Norman Mailer Center, and he was the 2019–20 Olive B. O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University, where he taught a poetry class called “Song of the Human.” His work has been published in the Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, the Yale Review, the New York Times and elsewhere.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ladan Osman
The Poetry Room wishes to thank all of the impressive applicants to this year’s Fellowship program. This year constituted the largest pool of applicants in the entire history of the program, and we were honored to encounter and to learn from each and every proposal.
For more information about the WPR Creative Fellowship program, please visit: https://library.harvard.edu/libraries/p