UConn Professor and Alumnus Brian Sneeden Receives National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship

PER PRESS RELEASE BY PETER CONSTANTINE, DIRECTOR OF THE PROGRAM IN LITERARY TRANSLATION, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT – The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced that Brian Sneeden will receive a Literature Translation Fellowship of $12,500 to translate Chimera, a collection of poetry by Phoebe Giannisi, into English. Sneeden is one of 24 Literature Translation Fellows selected for fiscal year 2021. In total, the Arts Endowment will award $325,000 in grants to support the translation of works written in 16 different languages into English.

“Supporting literary translation not only means that many of the world’s talented writers reach a new audience, but also new and different perspectives and experiences are made available to readers in this country,” said Amy Stolls, director of literary arts at the National Endowment for the Arts. “The Arts Endowment is proud to continue its long history of supporting the art of translation through these 24 fellowships.”

The project entails the translation of award-winning Greek poet Phoebe Giannisi’s book, Chimera, which incorporates both lyric poetry and field recordings. Chimera is the product of the poet’s three-year field research project on the goat herding practices of the Vlachs, a nomadic people of Greece who speak their own Indigenous language, and whose seasonal route spans the mountains of northern Greece to the sea town of Volos, where Giannisi lives. The poems cover day-to-day activities like shearing and lambing and are mixed with snippets of conversations, oral traditions, and song. This collection has not yet appeared in English.

Sneeden writes: “I believe poetry deepens our understanding not only of human experience, but of language, and specifically what language can do, how it can give shape and geography to our interior space and lives. Translating Giannisi’s nuanced poetry is as much a process of listening as writing, one that requires giving and sharing extensive time with the voice of the poet. What this generous fellowship offers, for myself and other literary artists, is time to dedicate to our most important work: creating new communities of readers for essential world voices.”

Brian Sneeden is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Connecticut, where he serves as Managing and Senior Editor of World Poetry Books. A poet as well as a literary translator, his work has received the World Literature Today Translation Award for Poetry, the Constantinides Memorial Translation Prize, a PEN/Heim Translation Grant, the Iowa Review Award in Poetry, and other honors. His translation of Phoebe Giannisi’s Homerica (2017) was selected by Anne Carson as a favorite book of 2017, and his translation of Giannisi’s collection Cicada (2022) is forthcoming from New Directions. His collection of poems, Last City, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2018.

Since 1981, the NEA has awarded 528 fellowships to 467 literary translators, with translations representing 74 languages and 88 countries. (The full list of fiscal year 2021 Literature Translation Fellowships are available on the National Endowment of the Arts’ website).

Visit arts.gov to browse bios, artist statements, and writing excerpts from a sample of past Literature Fellows in Translation.