Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Shared Rooms: Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova with Translations by Natalie Staples and Imitations by David Campbell and Rosemary Dobson

SharedRooms1, originally uploaded by Ampersand Duck.

In the 1970s two notable Australian poets, David Campbell and Rosemary Dobson decided to further explore their mutual interest in Russian poetry. Starting with Mandelstam and progressing through a number of lesser-known female poets, they met at the ANU and 'studied' a different poem every fortnight. With the help of skilled translators such as Robert Dessaix, Olga Hassanoff and Natalie Staples, they would each take home the literal translation and return to the next session with their own 'imitation' of the poem, which would be discussed alongside the original. Two publications emerged from this project, Moscow Trefoil and Seven Russian Poets, both in small editions, and both now out of print.

Produced as an Honours work, this book uses some of the working papers from the Russian translations project (stored in the National Library of Australia) and celebrates this fruitful collaboration between writers. Anna Akhmatova was a celebrated Russian poet persecuted by Stalin. The translator for these four poems was Natalie Staples. Shared Rooms was designed to allow a simultaneous and non-hierarchical presentation of all four states of each poem: the original Russian, the literal translation, and the two 'imitations'. Accompanied by relief monotypes, the book design evokes the concept of a drawer of correspondence between old friends, kept safely for future readings.

This work is part of the exhibition "'How I entered there I cannot truly say': Collaborative Works from the ANU Edition + Artist Book Studio", soon to open at Artspace Mackay as part of their '2nd Focus on Artist Books Forum'

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