Poet, translator, professor and essayist Aditi Machado made two in-person Visiting Author Craft Talk appearances at the Heller Center to read from and discuss her 2020 essay “The End.”
The appearances on March 14 and 18 were headed by English professor and “riverrun” faculty advisor Chris Martin, and sponsored by the creative writing minor; the first-year rhetoric and writing program; the English department; and a faculty minority affairs committee grant.
The focus of Machado’s March 14 Craft Talk was on what it means to be a reader from the perspective of a writer, and how this dynamic comes to life in her own creative work.
“I don’t think you can be a writer who isn’t a really capacious and curious kind of reader,” she said.
Machado also discussed the arbitrary line that exists between reading and writing in her essay, exploring the idea that both terms are, in a sense, interchangeable.
In “The End” she writes that “[it’s] difficult to say when reading begins or ends. It’s more like reading disperses into some other activity that bears the stain of reading.”
For Machado, this “activity that bears the stain of reading” is translation.
When translating, Machado’s work relies on a method of translation that separates itself from what she understands as “the dominant model of reading and writing.”
Rather than conforming to the rules and requirements of traditional English, Machado likes to experiment with words, and employ a style of writing and translation that differs from the tendency (especially in America) to tie everything up in a tidy bow.
Through translation, Machado found that this binary process of writing was difficult to implement, and her ability to describe experiences and sensations changed remarkably when translating poems into English, almost as if her perception of the world itself was changing too.
“I don’t have a linguistics background, but I have this Wikipedia understanding of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which [suggests] that when you learn another language, you develop a new way of thinking,” she said. “The way in which words are put together in other languages is so different that your brain just sort of rewires.”
Upon realizing that differences in language can transcend the reading and writing process in a deeply personal and exciting way, Machado started to regularly read translated poetry, and committed herself to translating poems in her free time as well.
“I think of translators as creative people — they’re bringing in, but they’re also creating something new and exciting,” she said.
“It’s interesting to think about what it means to bring something into the English language that really isn’t available,” she continued. “When the translator is doing the translation, are they domesticating the poem and making it seem like something that a mainstream American poet would write, or are they attempting this seemingly impossible task of bringing that aesthetic — that language — into English?”
Machado also explained that her creative process as a translator is not limited, but guided by the poet’s intentions.
“There’s a way in which intentionality can be coded in a poem for me,” she explained.
This intentionality allows Machado to understand what the poet wanted to express in their writing, and helps her avoid imposing any discernible sense of structure or formality to a poem that diminishes the integrity of the writer’s original words.
“But there’s also reading against the grain, which is where you as a reader sort of have to refuse to interpret the text in a certain way,” she said. “Otherwise, what would academics do? You have to learn to produce new ideas [when reading], and that’s where the pleasure of it lies.”
At the end of Machado’s discussion, Martin advertised upcoming events in the English department, including an open mic event on April 14 and an English Career Conversation on April 21. Students, staff and faculty can learn more about these events on the English department website.