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Distinguished Professor Finalist for Prestigious Literary Prize

Adam J. Sorking in front of a bookshelf
Distinguished Professor of English Adam J. Sorkin
11/9/2011 —

Distinguished Professor of English Adam J. Sorkin was shortlisted for the British Poetry Society’s Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for Poetry Translated from a European Language into English. His nomination stemmed from a translation of Mircea Ivanescu’s "Lines Poems Poetry," published by the University of Plymouth Press. This work, along with five others, was honored by selection as part of the group of finalists out of an initial pool of 73 submissions.  Sorkin’s translation of a book of poems by Marin Sorescu, "The Bridge," won this prize in 2005.

Sorkin worked closely with co-collaborator Lidia Vianu, a professor at the University of Bucharest. Sorkin noted how helpful it is to work with a native speaker: “She brings inside knowledge about language and her poetry traditions” to the project, he said.

While translation, even with a native-speaker as collaborator, remains challenging, Sorkin said he is “grateful for translation because it re-energized my career. When your avocation becomes your vocation it’s really nice.” Translation has also had a positive impact in the classroom. “It has given me a surer and richer sense of language. It has also given me an insider’s view when teaching poetry.” 

In addition to "Lines Poems Poetry," Sorkin has recently published two additional books of poetry: "Medea and Her War Machines," a collection of poems by Serbian-born, Romanian-language poet Ioan Flora, and "A Path to the Sea," a selection of poems by Liliana Ursu released in September. In all, he has published 44 books of literary translation.

Sorkin began translating in the spring of 1981, while teaching American literature at the University of Bucharest as a Fulbright lecturer. Since then, he has honed his translation skills, although he admits, sometimes a translator must make judgment calls that go beyond carrying surface meanings from one language to another. “In order to be a good translator, you have to, instinctively and consciously, try to find the inner truth” of the poem, he said. He often asks himself while translating if there are “metaphors that are more important than the actual word being translated literally. The tricky part is to find the right connotation, the suggestive context … translation is really part creation.”

-Jennifer Santangelo, senior

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