The Columns

Michelson Wins NEA Fellowship for Poetry Translation The award will help to fund a trilingual translation of poetry by Mapuche-Argentine poet Liliana Ancalao.

— by on November 17th, 2017

Washington and Lee University Spanish professor Seth Michelson has been awarded a $12,500 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship for a trilingual translation of two poetry collections by Mapuche-Argentine poet Liliana Ancalao.

Professor Seth Michelson

Ancalao, who was born in southern Argentina in the Patagonian province of Chubut, is a member of the Mapuche-Tehuelche Nankulaven community. The nomadic indigenous Tehuelche people were present in Chubut for thousands of years before Europeans arrived there in the early 16th century. Ancalao writes her poetry in Mapuzungun, the language of the Mapuche people.

Michelson plans to use the award to help fund his work to translate poems from two of Ancalao’s collections, “Women in the Open Air” and “Fabric with Raw Wool.” The resulting volume will be published in Mapuzungun, Spanish and English. Once published, it will hold the distinction of being the first single-author volume of poetry by a female Mapuche-Argentine poet in English-language translation, and only the second single-author collection by a female Mapuche poet.

“Seth’s colleagues in Romance Languages and in the Center for Poetic Research faculty cohort are bursting with pride at his remarkable accomplishment,” said Dean Suzanne Keen. “Seth’s trilingual poetry translation will bring an important feminist environmental poet’s work to Spanish and English readerships.”

Michelson, who teaches in the Romance Languages Department at W&L, is himself an award-winning poet, having produced two original collections, “Swimming Through Fire” and “Eyes Like Broken Windows.” He has previously translated five volumes, “Scripted in the Streams” and “Dreaming in Another Land” by Rati Saxena, “Poems from the Disaster” by Zulema Moret, “roly poly” by Victoria Estol, and “El Ghetto/The Ghetto” by Tamara Kamenszain. He is currently working on three additional translations that will be published in 2018.