NEA Literature Fellowships

Cynthia Hogue

Back to NEA Literature Fellowships
(2015 - Translation)

Excerpt from Jeanne Darc by Nathalie Quintane

[translated from the French]

Joan, dressed in her armor, spends a lot of time observing herself in the
different parts of this armor, piece by separate piece, down and back up
depending on whether she first considers the plates of articulated metal
that cover the feet, or rather the shoulder.

When she walks, she does not walk all of a piece, but follows herself,
independently and by turns, in each part of her new guise.

In the same way, having worn a new dress, she had found herself reduced
to her dress many days in a row, its shape, its weight, and its color,
weighing on her mind.

Reconstructed temporarily around her dress, she’d had little latitude for
thinking about anything else: to plan, to decide. She hardly had leeway
enough to obey an order still.

To admire herself in her new dress is paralyzing.
To regret it, too.

(In the same way, when she has just washed herself, her cleanness
prevents her, for a time, from distancing herself from cleanliness.)

Original in French

About Nathalie Quintane

Nathalie Quintane, whose Jeanne Darc is a revisionary feminist treatment of the iconic figure, is an established, socially-engaged poet in France. She has never been translated into English before. Quintane often addresses subjects that are politically sensitive, and her writing works against the blurring of collective memory. Many of the poems in Jeanne Darc consider existential and historical questions that a real person would have encountered, and in so doing, they wrest Joan of Arc from romanticized, extreme-nationalist narratives.

Cynthia Hogue's most recent collections of poetry are Revenance (Red Hen Press 2014) and the co-authored When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina (poems and photographs), published in 2010 in the University of New Orleans Press’ Engaged Writers Series. With Sylvain Gallais, Hogue co-translated Fortino Sámano (The overflowing of the poem), from the French of Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy (Omnidawn 2012), which won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2013.  Among her other honors are an NEA Fellowship in poetry, the H.D. Fellowship at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, a MacDowell Colony residency, and the Witter Bynner Translation Fellowship at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Hogue served as the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University in the Spring of 2014. She is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry in English at Arizona State University.

Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Translator's Statement

How does one come to the work one does?  I find myself inspired by dwelling in the dream level of the poetry I translate, integrating the work deeply into my mind and thought, as well as into my own poetry. I am a poet-translator who has welcomed the replenishment of my language that the act of translating poetry from another language inevitably produces, even as the linguistic shifts and turns have surprised me. I had not looked for such benefit (it was literally unlooked-for), but the infusion of alterity into my own poetry has made translation a fascinating field in which to wander.  

To co-translate (with Sylvain Gallais) Jeanne Darc by Nathalie Quintane has enabled me to step back in time to the One Hundred Years War, and to consider the ways that Quintane challenges received versions of Joan of Arc the legend by re-imagining Joan’s lived experience, her remarkable journey from shepherd girl to military strategist as one of feminist self-transformation. Quintane asks real-life questions posed in the interstices of the myth: What was it like for Joan to don armor for the first time and ride a horse?  How did a shepherd girl learn to plan battles?  How did a woman inspire men to follow her?  What was her impression of the powerful world she entered, which she also scrutinized and judged (a world that, in the end, destroyed her)?  

I agree with those theorists who contend that what makes translation possible is a kind of boundless poesis, the creativity of  making something in one’s language where there had been nothing, for my experience reflects that notion. The praxis of translation as a creative act parallels making the original itself, and this parallel becomes the translator’s beacon.