10 episodes

Asymptote is a global journal dedicated to literary translation, created by a team of writers and translators from over 25 different countries. In our new podcast, we explore the most fascinating, eclectic and unsung stories in international literature. Each episode travels far and wide to bring you interviews, readings and mini-documentaries from all over the literary world.

Asymptote Podcast Asymptote Podcast

    • Books

Asymptote is a global journal dedicated to literary translation, created by a team of writers and translators from over 25 different countries. In our new podcast, we explore the most fascinating, eclectic and unsung stories in international literature. Each episode travels far and wide to bring you interviews, readings and mini-documentaries from all over the literary world.

    Asymptote Podcast: That Which is Found and Gained through Translation

    Asymptote Podcast: That Which is Found and Gained through Translation

    Podcast Editor Layla Benitez-James reports back from the Unamuno Poetry Festival in Madrid with an excerpt from a panel she moderated, titled “TransAtlantic: Translation as Bridge and Compulsion.” She also explores the dynamic lecture on translation given by Jorge Vessel, poet and translator of Desperate Literature: A Bilingual Anthology—a book highlighting, rather than what is lost, that which is found and gained through the art of translation. Join us for all the happy accidents that can spring forth from this wonderful and sometimes eccentric practice, and get inspired in your own experiments with language.

    • 33 min
    Asymptote Podcast: Infinite Text

    Asymptote Podcast: Infinite Text

    During Madrid’s Year of Lorca, which commemorates the centenary of the poet’s arrival to the city, podcast editor Layla Benitez-James speaks with Rebecca Seiferle, whose brilliant essay on Lorca translations appears in Into English. A multi-award winning poet and noted translator of César Vallejo and other Spanish language poets, Seiferle is deeply passionate about teaching and served as the poet laureate of Tucson, Arizona between 2012 and 2016. On this edition of the podcast, she discusses how her translation practice has woven its way through her own writing and teaching, and reminds us of the importance of interrogating each and every word to get at the very heart and origin of a text’s language.



    Layla Benitez-James is an Asymptote Podcast Editor, poet, translator, and artist living in Alicante, Spain. Translations can be found in Waxwing and Anomaly. She currently works with the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid as their Director of Literary Outreach. Her first chapbook, God Suspected My Heart Was a Geode But He Had to Make Sure, was selected by Major Jackson for the 2017 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and published by Jai-Alai Books in Miami, April 2018.
    Produced by: Layla Benitez-James.
    Music: "Arizona Moon" by Blue Dot Sessions and "Paradise Arizona" by Utopia, Ohio, used with permission from the FMA.

    • 41 min
    Asymptote Podcast: Out from Under the Masochist’s Shadow

    Asymptote Podcast: Out from Under the Masochist’s Shadow

    Podcast editor Dominick Boyle speaks with translator Olivia Hellewell, whose stellar translation of an excerpt from Katja Perat’s The Masochist earned her first place in the fiction category of our 2019 Close Approximations Contest and $1,000 in prizes. Set in an impeccably researched past, the novel gives Leopold von Sacher-Masoch—the (in)famously eccentric aristocrat after which masochism is named—a fictional daughter. The excerpt, featured in our Winter 2019 issue, depicts protagonist Nadezhda Moser as a woman of powerful wit and will to address issues that resonate with the present day. Dominick and Olivia sit down to discuss what drew Hellewell to translate from the Slovenian, what it’s like to translate from a language with a smaller stature on the world stage, and more.



    Dominick Boyle is a podcast editor at Asymptote Journal, master’s student in linguistics at the University of Basel, musician, and English teacher.
    Produced by: Dominick Boyle.
    Music used with permission from the FMA.

    • 21 min
    Asymptote Podcast: International Blacknesses

    Asymptote Podcast: International Blacknesses

    "I felt myself in translation all the time."

    Podcast Editor Layla Benitez-James sits down via Google Hangouts with poet and translator Aaron Coleman in this third and final installment of interviews inspired by John Keene's essay Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness. In October’s conversation with Keene and our previous podcast with Lawrence Schimel, we explored the more radical social possibilities of translation. Our discussion continues with Coleman, a Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the 2017 Philip K. Jansen Memorial Fellowship, awarded to outstanding translators of color. He joins us to talk about his studies in international Blacknesses, interpreting on the red carpet at the MTV Music Awards in Madrid, and playing basketball in Extremadura. Tune in for this and much, much more!



    Layla Benitez-James is an Asymptote Podcast Editor, poet, translator, and artist living in Alicante, Spain. Translations can be found in Waxwing and Anomaly. She currently works with the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid as their Director of Literary Outreach. Her first chapbook, God Suspected My Heart Was a Geode But He Had to Make Sure, was selected by Major Jackson for the 2017 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and published by Jai-Alai Books in Miami, April 2018.
    Produced by: Layla Benitez-James
    Music: “Wheels of Steel (The Polish Ambassador Remix sampling Outkast)," by The Polish Ambassador. Used with permission from the FMA.

    • 39 min
    Asymptote Podcast: Back into the Archives

    Asymptote Podcast: Back into the Archives

    On this episode of the Asymptote Podcast, we dive once more into the archives to tune into some of the riches that Asymptote has offered readers over the last 30 (now 31!) issues. Pick up where Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle left off in his last episode to listen to recordings from 2014 up to the present issue. Hear a thought provoking essay by Nobel laureate Herta Müller on the space between languages, along with an experimental translation of poetry by Nenten Tsubouchi that fully embraces this space. A fragmented, anonymous love poem in Old English translated by Christopher Patton and an electric reading by poet Steven Alvarez in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl round out the episode. Take a listen, and revel in the riches.



    Dominick Boyle is a podcast editor at Asymptote Journal, master’s student in linguistics at the University of Basel, musician, and English teacher.

    Produced by: Dominick Boyle.

    Featuring: Tul’si Bhambry, Martin Rock, Christopher Patton, Steven Alvarez.

    Music: "nostalgia of an ex-gansta-rapper," by deef. Used with permission from the FMA.

    • 21 min
    Asymptote Podcast: Blackness Revisited

    Asymptote Podcast: Blackness Revisited

    "All art, all artistic production, entails the base of this word translation, a carrying over…"

    In this latest edition of the Asymptote Podcast, we sit down with translator and writer John Keene on the heels of the tremendous news of his MacArthur Genius Award. Author of Annotations and Counternarratives, Keene was longlisted for the 2015 Best Translated Book Award for his translation from the Portuguese of Hilda Hilst’s Letters from a Seducer. But it was his essay Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness which inspired a panel at the most recent AWP Conference as well as our June podcast, so we wanted to get insight straight from the source. Join us as we talk about how translation carries over into a writer’s creative life, how English still holds powerful sway over writers working in other languages, and much much more! Listen to our latest podcast now!



    John Keene is a writer and translator who currently teaches at Rutgers University–Newark. He graduated from the St. Louis Priory School, Harvard College, and New York University, where he was a New York Times Fellow. Keene joined the Dark Room Collective in 1989, and is a Graduate Fellow of the Cave Canem writer's workshop. He is the author of Annotations and Counternarratives, both published by New Directions, as well as several other works, including the poetry collection Seismosis, coauthored with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and a translation of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst’s novel Letters from a Seducer. Keene is the recipient of many awards and fellowships—including a MacArthur Genius Award, the Windham-Campbell Prize, and the Whiting Foundation Prize for fiction.

    Layla Benitez-James is an Asymptote Podcast Editor, poet, translator, and artist living in Alicante, Spain. Translations can be found in Waxwing and Anomaly. She currently works with the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid as Director of Literary Outreach. Her first chapbook, God Suspected My Heart Was a Geode But He Had to Make Sure, was selected by Major Jackson for the 2017 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and published by Jai-Alai Books in Miami, April 2018.

    Produced by: Layla Benitez-James

    Featuring: John Keene

    Music: "Been Awhile," Yung Kartz. Creative Commons licenses can be found at http://freemusicarchive.org/. Some changes were made to the track.

    • 38 min

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