Monday, 7 December 2020


I loathe the act of translating from one language to another. Where many find creativity, I only encounter the frustration of insurmountable challenges, especially when a word possesses two connotations in the original text and one or three (or two different ones) in the new one. What’s more, I know I’m not alone in this respect. One of the most popular posts on this blog, for instance, from 2009, is titled Traduttore, Tradittore or Translator, Traitor.

However, today’s thoughts aren’t concentrated on translation per se. Instead, the afore-mentioned problem is a point of departure for a questioning of our use of the word submission in poetry. If we look up any major dictionary, this term has two main meanings in English, as in the following example:


the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.


the action of presenting a proposal, application, or other document for consideration or judgement.

As a consequence, in English at least, I’m unable to imagine the second definition without a small part of my mind recalling the first one. The two are inextricably linked and cannot be separated because they co-exist.

Going back to my initial explanation of the nightmare of translation: this word cannot be considered if we don’t accept the sociolinguistic ramifications of both its potential meanings. These, by coincidence, don’t exist in Spanish in the same way (in which language there are actually other, subtly different connotations), so a translator either way could never transmit the full load of the word in question.

But let's cut to the chase: I’m always uncomfortable with the mention of a submission when referring to poetry journals and publishers. I’m personally incapable of shaking off the implication of being subjugated, of submitting myself to judgement, of yielding to a superior force or will, especially if it’s being invoked in the context of artistic creation.

Why can’t we just use contribution?

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