Poetry slam

by J. Mermod

Have you ever heard of Poetry Slam? Matt and I are huge fans of so-called Slam Poetry, a form of art where several poets enter the stage and recite a self-written piece of literature, a poem or a short story. This may sound boring at first, but the clue is that this is a competition (a slam). The poets have to stick to certain rules (e.g. no singing) and are given a time limit. Their performance is then judged by the audience (by the means of applause) and the best poets get to the final, where they again battle each other. Their performances, as diverse and different in mood and format they may be, all have something in common: they are built on the mastery of language, on the witty and smart usage of words, homophones and metaphers, on - the pure joy of words and language.

The poetry slam craze kicked in in 2007 in the German-speaking area of Europe, according to Google Trends, even though it has been practiced since the 90ies. A German Championship is carried out since 2003, and you can see the latest finalists on ARTE tv.

And here comes the connection to interpreting: there are not just monolingual, but also bi- and even trilingual slamming events! Have a look a this German-French bilingual Poetry Slam event organized by ARTE tv. The two artists seemingly have to communicate in English! Now this is Europe… languages intermezzo.

If you were asked to interpret at such an event - would you do it? Which leads to the question: is poetry interpretable?

Chernov says no. Quote:

(…) simultaneous interpretation of poetry is impossible because of the very low level of objective redundancy in poetic language. Even SI of prose is barely possible if the stlye is literary. (Chernov 1994:95)

I think we all agree that this also applies to consecutive interpreting, especially given the speed of the presentation and the inevitable loss of the mood.

So all we can do is to sit back and enjoy. ;-)