Translator's notes

FM-Biography

By Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało

I translated this poem as part of the ‘Visegrád Poets’ Project. It involved a female poet from each of the Visegrád countries, along with German and English poets. The participants were myself, Anna T Szabo (Hungary), Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkalo ( Poland), Katerina Rudcenkova (Czech), Katarina Kucbelova (Slovakia) and Nora Gomringer (Germany). We spent a week in Hungary, first at the wonderful translator's house by Lake Balaton, where we worked intensely for a few days translating each other's poems, then in Budapest for a reading where we unveiled our translations.

Fortunately for me, the translation sessions were carried out in our mutual language, English. We would listen to one of the poets read their poem a couple of times, enjoying the language, and then talk through the poem line-by-line, getting a sense of what the poet meant and asking lots of questions. It would take at least a couple of hours for each poem - especially as we kept getting distracted by delicious Balaton wine, discussions about men and politics, and Anna's Hungarian hospitality as she whipped up another plate of delicious snacks. After this, we'd retire to our rooms, dictionaries by our sides, and try and turn our notes into a living poem.

I loved Agnieszka's FM-Biography immediately. Agnieszka is such a free spirit, and the poem has a real wildness - Beat poetry brought to contemporary Poland. I hope that spending a week with her helped me to capture her distinct voice!

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