Absinthe at AWP

On Wednesday, March 7th, fellow Absinthe editor Genta Nishku and I hopped on a plane to Tampa, Florida for our first ever AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference. We were greeted by a perfect 65º day, though not everyone agreed it was warm—locals blamed us for bringing the cold front with us.

AWP is the MLA of the writing world, and so I was prepared for, well, crowds of people, the volleying of loud voices as people spotted one another from far off, and event after event of seemingly imperdible events. (By the way, it felt good to speak so much Spanish in Tampa. Love you sometimes, am-er-ic-a to the north). There’s a lot of joy at AWP, which is something I appreciate, especially after having been to an MLA conference (ALTA has a similar feel). And I was lucky to have Genta as a co-conspirator, and to know that many of my friends—translators, writers, micro-publishers—would be in attendance, too. There was no competition, no job interviews, no despair, and it was the kind of literary vacation I needed right now. It made me feel like translating, and that’s something I’m not always feeling up to these days.

After settling in, we made our way to the convention center to meet up with Kate Beaton—whom I met in undergrad—from the UofM Press. We carved out a small spot for Absinthe and admired the rows and rows of publishing projects at the book fair. It’s wild, really, to be confronted with all of those contemporary books; it’s even wilder that I managed to escape having only bought three of them (all in translation, of course). Those discounts are brutal, y’all. People loved our postcard of the medieval Armenian alphabet imagined as a kind of bestiary and some man even took one and said the letters would make for a good tattoo. Maybe he’ll subscribe, too . . .

While we weren’t with Kate, we were networking, although networking isn’t the right word for what we do at all. It’s community-building, it’s a support network, it’s a fan club. Most of the people I admire are in the same “situation” as I am—translators who are lodged in the in-between. They’re aren’t many jobs in the translation world—and there are even fewer well-paying jobs, especially for those who aren’t “stars” of their language—so many of us work in other fields and cobble together what we can to get by. Some—very few—get PhDs and translate in the mean-while of professing, but that’s a long shot, too, these days. It’s a real problem in our industry (literary translation & academia), and I’m inspired by the people and organizations that are trying to change things. I aspire to be one of them.

All of this is also to say that I was excited to not only rep Absinthe and spread the good word, but that I also had the chance to show off some of my own work as a book designer/artist with an interest in translation & labor. Last week I completed my first folio of a trilingual folio called Co Co Co U by Luz Pichel, Ángela Segovia, and Neil Anderson. Here’s a picture of my corner at the ALTA’s table (American Literary Translators Association). The people at ALTA (Lissie and Rachael) are phenomenal and I had such a good time talking about how we can advocate for not just translation, but translators. That’s a crucial difference y’all, and one that needs to be taken up over and over again in the years to come.

I spent my last night at a special reading featuring my fav poet, Ada Limón, with Cristy Hall, whom I’m co-editing Absinthe’s upcoming issue on Catalan Women Writers. We had time to work out some of our ideas earlier that evening, and let’s just say we’re excited to show you what we have in store, including that our issue will feature illustrations from the wonderful Elisa Munsó of El Diluvio Universal (Barcelona). Until then, chase that joy, y’all.