Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Cliff Becker Translation Project

Good morning, and happy Halloween. It's a great day to think about translation, if costumes are translations, and if our current holiday is a translation of All Saint's Day, which may have been a translation of something else. I hope yours is safe, and fun, and as translating as it's meant to be for you.

In just the few months that I've worked at MU's Center for the Literary Arts, lots of great things have happened, and I remain very grateful to Scott Cairns and Sharon Fisher for giving me the position. The Cliff Becker Translation Project promises to be another great thing, and I also have Aliki Barnstone to thank for the chance to be involved with starting it. It's got incredible potential, thanks to everything that she's done with translation, the work of her amazing family members, and the life's work of the man it's commemorating.

Since Aliki brought up the possibility of this project, I've really enjoyed getting to know Cliff through the memories of him available online. He started at the NEA in 1992, and was involved with some of its great poetry efforts. He did wonderful work managing its grants, and, most recently, helped to start the National Poetry Recitation Contest. He's remembered for being the kind of great man who didn't advertise himself, but worked with passion and humor to address the kinds of problems that it's literature's place to solve.

Among his missions was the one of bringing more foreign literature into English via translation. His quote in the New York Times really grabbed me: "I am a citizen of the most powerful country the world has known, a country that asks me to be part of its decision-making process on a whole range of things. If I'm not able to experience other cultures, not even from a place that is as easy to reach as the printed page, that is outright dangerous."

The scope and nature of the Cliff Becker Translation Project remain to be seen; right now, I'm grateful for the chance to see the importance of translation, and to you for being translated into the blogosphere to read about it. Have a great day.


Blogger Reginald Shepherd said...

Hi Chad,

I was an NEA literature panelist in 1997, when Cliff Becker was the NEA literature director. He was a quite warm, friendly, funny guy, and also a very efficient administrator who kept things running smoothly and kept us on track when discussions threatened to go off the rails. I also liked his motorcycle jacket, which he would wear to meetings.

I was sad to hear about Cliff's death at such a young age, and I'm glad that there will be some sort of memorial to him. He was a good man.

Take good care.

all best,


8:12 AM  
Blogger Leila said...


Thank you for your efforts in the initiation of the Cliff Becker Translation Project. I look forward to seeing his vision for giving American readers access to great works from emergent authors around the world. And, many thanks to Aliki for her tireless efforts towards creating an infrastructure to support the project. I eagerly await the first fruits of your efforts.

Leila Becker

12:42 AM  

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