SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

Translating Poetries: a Symposium for Translation Practitioners


Date: 12 September 2019Time: 9:00 AM

Finishes: 13 September 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Djam Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Symposium

To be hosted by the Poetry Translation Centre, SOAS Centre of African Studies and SOAS Centre for Translation Studies.
With support from Commonwealth Writers, Literature Across Frontiers and the National Centre for Writing.

This symposium will gather 50 leading translation practitioners from around the world to discuss the practice of translating poetry. The aims of the symposium are:

  1. To bring together leading poetry translators from around the world, from both academic and non-academic contexts
  2. To facilitate a high-quality exploration of current poetry translation practice across a wide range of languages and methods
  3. To emphasise poets and poems in Asian, African and Latin American languages, which are under-represented both in UK publishing and in scholarly research
  4. To emphasise practical rather than theoretical concerns
  5. To offer networking opportunities, including for students and emerging translators

The symposium will take place over two full days of plenary sessions. Each session will start with a short panel presentation before opening up into a discussion. Session topics will be finalised in spring 2019 based on the interests of delegates; these are likely to include:

  • Responsibility - to the poem, the poet, the poetic culture, the language, the society
  • Translating endangered languages
  • Questions of form - challenges of working with particular metres, rhyme and alliteration patterns, parallelism, specific syntax etc
  • Specific challenges of translating oral poetry
  • Ethical issues with respect to poets and poems, poetry and power
  • Deciding who and what to translate
  • The position of poetry as an artform in different cultural contexts

The symposium will open with a keynote talk by poet and translator Mamta Sagar (India), and close with an in-conversation event featuring poet Abdilatif Abdalla (Kenya) and leading Swahili translator Annmarie Drury (USA).

Registration fee: £100 / £50 concession (delegates not affiliated with a university/institution, and full-time students with ID).

If you wish to take part as a delegate, please email: and with the following information:

  1. Topics that you would like to explore at the symposium
  2. Your translation experience and area of research (if relevant)
  3. Why you want to attend the symposium

 Deadline to apply: 30 April 2019

Organiser: Poetry Translation Centre and SOAS University of London

Contact email:,