The Art of Translation

As a student of the classical Latin language, I often translate famous Latin prose and poetry that has withstood the test of time. Working with these historical pieces is wonderful in a variety of ways, but I find it particularly fascinating how different translations of the same passage can vary widely in both their structure and tone. I was recently discussing some of my thoughts on what makes a great artistic translation in my Latin class and I thought it would be great to share those thoughts with you, and hopefully peak your curiosity in the art of translation. To demonstrate what makes one translation fall short, and another translation stand out, we’ll look at two translations of the same passage from the Aeneid by Vergil, a famous passage in which the protagonist Aeneas tells of the infamous “Trojan horse” being found on the beach and the priest of Apollo, Laocoon, warning the Trojans of Greek offerings.

Then Laocoön rushes down eagerly from the heights

of the citadel, to confront them all, a large crowd with him, 

and shouts from far off: ‘O unhappy citizens, what madness? 

Do you think the enemy’s sailed away? Or do you think 

any Greek gifts free of treachery? Is that Ulysses’s reputation? 

Either there are Greeks in hiding, concealed by the wood, 

or it’s been built as a machine to use against our walls, 

or spy on our homes, or fall on the city from above, 

or it hides some other trick: Trojans, don’t trust this horse. 

Whatever it is, I’m afraid of Greeks even those bearing gifts.’

– A.S. Kline, Poetry in Translation, The Aeneid (2002)

The first translation of the passage by A.S. Kline is interesting in how literal and linear it is; it follows the structure of the original Latin very closely, not adding implied or gapped vocabulary unless absolutely necessary for understanding. This leads to some sentences feeling unfinished, such as “what madness”, in which Kline decides not to include a main verb, making the sentence unintelligible in English. In contrast to his literal interpretation of the Latin, he does take liberties in his translations of adjectives and verbs. He shifts them around from the original Latin in order to paint a different picture that better fits the image that he wants to convey. It can be argued that these modifications of the original Latin are beneficial to the English reader, but it conflicts with his other literal translation decisions. It leads to this semi-modern translation that is choppy and lacks a consistent tone, while only being marginally easier to understand.

And now Laocoon comes running down

From the citadel at the head of a great thong

And in his burning haste he cries from afar:

‘Are you out of your minds, you poor fools?

Are you so easily convinced that the enemy

Has sailed away? Do you honestly think

That any Greek gift comes without treachery?

What is Ulysses known for? Either this lumber

Is hiding Achaens inside, or it has been built

As an engine of war to attack our walls,

To spy on our homes and come down on the city

From above. Or some other evil lurks inside.

Do not trust the Horse, Trojans! Whatever it is,

I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.’

– Stanley Lombardo, Hackett, Aeneid (2005)

The translation by Stanley Lombardo is different than the previous translation in a few significant ways: Lombardo does not follow the order of the original, he uses numerous adverbs that are not present in the original Latin, and he generally uses more idiomatic and figurative English to create a tone to the passage.  In doing so, he creates a more flowing and intriguing narrative, and overall I think that a large number of Lombardo’s additions are supported by the original context of the Latin, if not by the literal structures and vocabulary. By being more artistic and presenting his own interpretation, Lombardo conveys better in English what Vergil conveys in the original Latin. The result is a much more interesting narrative that is more imaginative and easier to read, even if it strays far from the literal structure of the Latin.

In conclusion, there is something to be said for both consistency and imagination. A quality translation has a specific goal in mind, whether it be to follow the original language strictly, present a more imaginative narrative, or to make the passage easier to read and understand, and then makes consistent decisions to realize that goal. As far as which goal is best, each has its merits and particular nuances that make them great; such is the beauty of translation.

In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: The Power of Writing and its Relationship to our Discipline

Hi Everyone! I know it’s a bit late, but bear with me! (Ahaha, this is the typical life of an architecture student)

I’m back again this week to discuss the topic: the power of writing and its relationship to our discipline!

I’m sure, no matter what age you are or what major in college you’re pursuing right you, you must’ve thought of English papers and all that unpleasant stuff seemed completely unreasonable and unnecessary to your discipline and life goals. I confess I’ve also had these thoughts at some point before when I took introductory architecture courses that required a ton of writing and I’d remember thinking to myself, “Ughhh I’m in architecture school, shouldn’t I be designing instead of writing all these boring papers‽‽
I do occasionally have these thoughts recurring as I continue to write papers, even as a fourth year in architecture. But I’ve finally grown to understand that writing and architecture are truly interrelated. As ridiculous as it sounds, let me explain.
In architecture, we use different drawing mechanisms as a language to convey our ideas visually. Although drawing seems to be the primary language present in architectural education, it is important to realize that it is still our thoughts and understanding of these thoughts that in turn inspire the abilities behind these drawings.

Let me rephrase more simply, I mean to say that if you cannot describe the idea in verbal language, then you cannot hope to understand the design well enough to effectively convey that idea visually through drawing. All this time, papers have been the root practice at structuring the way we think and understand ideas verbally as designers, but also serves as the universal method to communicate ideas with each other. To be a better writer directly correlates with being a better designer in that you are able to clearly understand what it is you want to highlight about your ideas in the representational drawings. To reinforce my point, these drawings and all your models are to be displayed at critiques reviews where you are expected to help your critics understand your project so that they can then give you feedback on what to improve in your representation, or even perhaps what to add to your design to further it’s successes. I canopy stress how important it is to understand our own work before we try to get others to understand it too. As expected, I’ve observed that my classmates who seem quite fluent in explaining their thoughts and ideas about projects are also quite fluent in representation as well, and they also make for quite amazing critics of our work as well.

So, bottom line: do the papers!! As boring as it seems, it’ll help you SO much in the long run, even just as a general human being in general. After all, humans were meant to communicate 🙂

Welp, that’s all I’ve got for tonight, but I’m so grateful for any one of you who’s still up this late and still reading my blog!

Ciao 🙂

Benefits to Sharing Your Writing

Sometimes, sharing our own writing—especially with other authors—can make us feel vulnerable. The process of writing can sometimes feel like a laborious job and an emotional roller coaster, let alone sharing it with others. We don’t want others to judge us or our writing in a negative way; however, sharing our writing can actually be beneficial for the craft and its process.

Good writing requires honesty even if the truth is not always what we want to hear. Even writing a blog post can be intimidating. I know not many people tend to comment on or read my posts, but the idea of others critiquing my thoughts and amplifying every small mistake I make is terrifying. Crafting an arts, ink. blog post is often a simple process of taking my thoughts on artsy things and expressing them in text. While it seems like a trivial matter, I’m still making myself vulnerable to judgment, criticism, and misinterpretation. With my creative writing such as short stories (or the poetry I occasionally dabble in, though I know nothing about poetry), the feeling of vulnerability is amplified.

With our own writing, it’s easy to become attached. While it’s great to be passionate about our work, it’s another thing to be so defensive we reject any possible critiques. On the flip side, perhaps a writer isn’t confident with their writing, and refuses to share in fear of rejection. Either way, sharing writing with others can be beneficial in gaining an outside view on the clarity and meaning of our words. It can be both a humbling and helpful experience when we are open to suggestions made by others. Maybe certain content makes sense to the writer but not to the readers; yet, there is no way of knowing this until getting feedback from others. Why does the character do this, or what did you mean when you said that? A fresh pair of eyes will be able to pick out flaws that the writer overlooked and note if the writing is convoluted or otherwise confusing. Overall, feedback can be extremely valuable in revealing what was good about the piece and what could be worked on.

I strive to grow in my writing skills and become competent at crafting creative works. It’s something I’m passionate about and would like to continue improving on after school. Why, then, would I readily subject the product of my blood, sweat, and tears to criticism? Well, writing is a balance between being critical in a constructive manner and submitting yourself to self-criticism. By sharing my writing, I’m letting others know what’s on my mind and in my heart, even if it’s through other characters or other worlds. The sharing process ultimately helps me with the examination and reexamination of my story ideas. Receiving feedback helps me discover the strengths and weaknesses of a piece in addition to the strengths and weaknesses I have as a writer overall.

how to write as a non writer

If you’re an individual like me who intends to hop into the pool of people who can smoothly formulate words, you must sound as confident as they do. Although you might sound like an imbecile, accept it but act like you don’t know. Act like you are right and that your opinion means something. Don’t try to use semicolons, colons, dashes, or even commas if you don’t know the proper way. Pretend that by leaving them out, you are shooting for an eerie and interesting writing style. For a good piece, write how you would speak. For a great piece, write how you would talk. Sound assertive, curious, and with your own little twang. Use Trust me, you will sound like Ernest Hemingway’s protégé. Okay, maybe not his protégé, but at least a fan of his. Use slang. This will help you sound like you have an in and allow you to connect with an audience by making them feel comfortable. Lastly, always believe that you can and deserve to write. Whether your writing makes sense or is a jumble of words written down, at least you have ideas. Ideas are always the start.


Why I Write


The undeniable assurance that I am a woman who has riches building in my veins, elements of the cosmos running through my blood, the pressure of the universes accumulating like the process of impure carbon turning to gleaming diamonds, the diamonds of words, of expression, of articulation. There is nothing in this world more powerful than a person who can speak and who has something worthwhile to say. There is nothing more powerful than an articulate woman. There is nothing more powerful than putting one word in front of the other, one sentence after another, building mosques and schools and homes and worlds with nothing but the faculties of my mind, the untarnished tools I was given at birth combined with centuries of human development. There is nothing more powerful than words.


Where there is power, surely, it must come from something, and here is the secret of writing: that it takes the sticky, messy, confusing parts of human life– the conflicting emotions, the mundane routines, the war of evil and good– and gives it back in eloquence. It aims to understand, not merely as a means to an end, but just for the sake of the thing itself; writing aims to know, to untangle, to explore, to marvel at the gloriousness of life and living. To express what is in the heart, mind, soul, body can’t be an easy task, but when it is done and done well, it hits with the force of change. When it is done well, I’m sure the humanness of writing becomes utterly divine. Besides, in all different cultures of the world, hadn’t god spoken to his messengers? Speech is divine because it is an invention of man. The most powerful invention.


I know there are people that disagree with me, but beauty is the double-edged purpose of writing. There is more to words than mere aesthetics– there is argument. The beauty of words comes from their ability to cause real change in the world. I want to make a massacre of beauty and re-gift it as power– I want to burn the aesthete and use his ashes as fodder for the philosopher. I want to seize language by the reigns and shout at the mute: “Look at you, caged by your pragmatism, daily routines, your boorish practicality– how, if only you could speak, you would have been free.”

Taking Advantage of My Free Time This Semester

Well, it’s my last semester here at the University of Michigan, and I’m lucky to be only taking six credits. It’s a huge change in terms of how much time I actually have on my hands; suddenly, I have class only on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, leaving me more days without class than with class.

This was probably a good choice. For one, why take an excessive number of credits when each class costs a lot of money and I’ve taken almost every class I need to graduate? It’s also a welcome break after 2016, which I spent as a Senior Arts Editor for The Michigan Daily. It was a position that seemed to sap almost every night of free time, even though it’s a relatively small time commitment compared to an editorial position on the news section, for example.

The thing about the Daily was even if it could be a pain to spend so much time there when I had so much studying to do all the time, it was rarely not fun being there. I worked closely with many of my best friends there, and it was a comforting place to go to each night I worked, not an unwelcome one. So even though the end of my editor position means a lot of nice free time, it also means spending less time in that fun environment surrounded by the people I laugh around the most. As a result, I think, I’ve felt a little despondent in the week since we came back from winter break…a little unmotivated, unproductive, with too much time to just sit in my room. I’ve felt a little lonely, to be honest.

And we all know what the best thing is for feeling lonely: art!

So I’m determined to start taking in a lot more art this semester, and not feel guilty about it. To start, of course, I’m watching a lot of TV and movies, and listening to a lot of music, as usual. I recently finished watching The Leftovers, and I just started Bates Motel tonight. I also have The Americans and Twin Peaks on my agenda for this semester. I have an endless list of movies to watch, and I’m going to enjoy watching them.

The most notable things, though are these:

First, I’m going to read more. I feel like I haven’t really read for pleasure that much since at least the summer, but more realistically farther back—you could even extend that to high school. I’m finally finishing Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth after starting it over the summer and promptly stopping when school started. I also have Super Sad True Love Story checked out, and plan to read The Handmaid’s Tale and some other good stuff soon.

Second, I’m going to journal consistently. My journal is massively important to me—I still have to write a longer post about that sometime—and I always inevitably fall behind because I spend so much time on it, imbuing every entry with so many details. When I fall behind, it takes the emotional power out of some of the entries, because I’m recalling events long after the fact, so I’m going to make sure to catch up once and for all and journal consistently this semester.

Third, I’m going to start writing fiction again. I haven’t done this in a while, either, and I really need to just write a novel already. It’s not good to take huge breaks from writing, and I need to learn to really discipline myself when it comes to that.

Anyways, yeah, that’s it! I’m also, obviously, applying to jobs for after graduation and trying to spend time with friends, but sometimes it seems like I am the single least busy person this semester, so I’ll have plenty of extra time, and art is the best way to fill that.