Dante’s Multi Language Project/Translating Latvian Poetry – Poetry News Roundup April 1st

Today’s poetry news roundup looks at a project to read Dante in over 30 languages and traditional Latvian poetry which is being translated into English.

Dante’s Death Anniversary Celebrated with Multi-Language Project

The University of Toronto’s department of Italian studies is spearheading a project which will see a number of different languages used for a reading that will include most of the canto’s of The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.

They are hoping to collate a collection of over 30 different languages including indigenous ones for the first time ever. Timed to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death, The Toronto Salutes Dante project will see readings of one of the most famous sections of the poem being made in 10 different Italian dialects, English, Italian French, Latin, Mandarin, Russian, Swedish, Arabic, Farsi, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Thai, Bulgarian, Sanskrit, Ukrainian and Slovak. There will also be an American Sign Language version.

The first 30 lines that make up The Inferno’s first canto will be read in Anishinaabemowin Garden River First Nation, and the final section is to be read Stoney Nakoda by a translator Calgary who identifies as Îethka. These two Indigenous translations have been prepared for the project. The university is delighted to be starting and ending the project with Indigenous readings which they thought was a particularly important contribution for Canada to make to the project. This is the first time that any of Dante’s work, which has over the years been translated into many languages, has been translated into Indigenous dialects.

The cantos are being read by students, professors and members of the community – each individual will also be sharing their thoughts on their chosen canto and the poet himself.

The series of reading will not all be posted at once on the YouTube channel of the university but at regular intervals. The first one was posted on 25th March and the last one is scheduled to be posted in June.

First Major Translations of Ancient Latvian poetry Planned

Latvia is a country that has been subjected to the will of other countries over the years with the Germans, Russians and even the Swedes trying to conquer them and impose their own form of Christianity. Whilst the country is currently split, Russian Orthodox in the east and Lutheran in the west, they are still deeply ritualistic and follow their own brand of “paganism”. This includes national song and dance festivals and summer solstice festivals.

Their hymns are an unusual form of poetry, called Dainas they are just four lines in length. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a folklorist encouraged Latvians to write these down so they wouldn’t be lost and now there are over one million of them at the National Library in the capital Riga. These Dainas follow a rather musical pattern similar to a Celtic reel or rig.

These planned translations are the work of Ieva Szentivanyi who has been working on them for the last 22 years. They are being translated into English, however, the rhythm of the Latvian language and the way in which the language uses diminutives is making the translation process a complex one.

Szentivanyi is hoping to translate a total of 2000 Dainas. However, she will not be tackling any of those relating to mythical subjects as they are difficult to understand even in Latvian.

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