Creativity in collaborative poetry translating

Sergio Lobejón Santos and Francis Jones

This study examines how creative solutions to translation problems are negotiated and selected in ‘poettrios’ (teams consisting of a source poet, a target-language poet and a bilingual language mediator working from pre-prepared, literal translation drafts of poems), and compares creativity in this mode to that in solo poetry translating (Jones 2011). The interactions and outputs taken from real-time recordings, work-in-progress drafts and participant interviews from several poettrios translating original poems from English into Dutch and from Dutch into English in two workshops were coded and analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The results show that creativity in poetry translating is an eminently cognitive activity in which creative solutions typically emerge through the incremental contributions of the complementary expertises of the individual poettrio members, with occasional radical leaps. In this incremental scaffolding process, and similarly to solo translating, poettrios first consider non-creative options, then creative adjustments and, finally, creative transformations. Radical solutions are generally only accepted when a departure from the source-text surface meaning is deemed necessary to achieve the double aim of retaining the source poem’s message while producing an acceptable poem in the target culture (Holmes 1988).

Publication history
Table of contents

This study examines how poettrios apply creative solutions to poetry-translation problems. Poettrios are collaborative teams consisting of a source poet, a target-language poet and a bilingual mediator who we call a ‘language advisor’ (henceforth SourcePoet, TargetPoet and Advisor, respectively). Hence this study explores translaboration, the “third space” where translation and collaboration interact (Alfer 2017, 285–286), by examining collaborative translation, where “two or more translators work together to produce one translated product” (O’Brien 2011, 17). We view collaboration as a process in which “autonomous stakeholders” engage in “joint decision-making” within “a problem domain” (Zwischenberger 2016, quoted in Alfer 2017, 283). By “see[ing] different aspects” of the domain, these stakeholders “can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision” (Gray 1989, 5). Through such collaboration, knowledge can become “a living thing that develops through interrogation, reflection and conversation” (Schwimmer 2017, 60).

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Acar, Selcuk, Cyndi Burnett, and John F. Cabra
2017 “Ingredients of Creativity: Originality and More.” Creativity Research Journal 29 (2): 133–144. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Alfer, Alexa
2017 “Entering the Translab: Translation as Collaboration, Collaboration as Translation, and the Third Space of ‘Translaboration’.” In Translaboration, edited by Alexa Alfer, special issue of Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts 3 (3): 275–290. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Beylard-Ozeroff, Ann, Jana Králová, and Barbara Moser-Mercer
1998 “Introduction.” In Translators’ Strategies and Creativity, edited by Ann Beylard-Ozeroff, Jana Králová, and Barbara Moser-Mercer, xi–xiii. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Chesterman, Andrew
1997Memes of Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Cranfield, Steven, and Claudio Tedesco
2017 “Reformulating the Problem of Translatability: A Case of Literary Translaboration with the Poetry of Francisco Brines.” In Translaboration, edited by Alexa Alfer, special issue of Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts 3 (3): 304–322. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Dryden, John
1680/2006 “From Preface to Ovid’s Epistles.” In Translation – Theory and Practice: A Historical Reader, edited by Daniel Weissbort and Astradur Eysteinsson, 145–147. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fontanet, Mathilde
2005 “Temps de créativité en traduction.” Meta 50 (2): 432–447. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Gilson, Lucy L., and Nora Madjar
2011 “Radical and Incremental Creativity: Antecedents and Processes.” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 5 (1): 21–28. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Gray, Barbara
1989Collaborating: Finding Common Ground for Multiparty Problems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
Heiden, Tanja
2005 “Blick in die Black Box: Kreative Momente im Übersetzungsprozess: Eine experimentelle Studie mit Translog.” Meta 50 (2): 448–472. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Holmes, James S.
1988Translated! Papers on Literary Translation and Translation Studies. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
Hughes, Ted
1989 “Postscript to János Csokits’ Note.” In Translating Poetry: The Double Labyrinth, edited by Daniel Weissbort, 16–34. London: Macmillan. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Jaussi, Kimberly S., Alexander R. Knights, and Alka Gupta
2017 “Feeling Good, Being Intentional, and Their Relationship to Two Types of Creativity at Work.” Creativity Research Journal 29 (4): 377–386. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Jones, Francis R.
2011Poetry Translating as Expert Action. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Jones-Teuben, Hanneke Maria
2013‘I Disagree with Myself!’: Creative Thinking in a Key Stage 1 Community of Enquiry. PhD diss. Newcastle University.Google Scholar
Keeley, Edmund
2000On Translation: Reflections and Conversations. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic.Google Scholar
Kunitz, Stanley, and Daniel Weissbort
1989 “Translating Anna Akhmatova: A Conversation with Stanley Kunitz.” In Translating Poetry: The Double Labyrinth, edited by Daniel Weissbort, 107–124. London: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Moran, Seana, and Vera John-Steiner
2004 “How Collaboration in Creative Work Impacts Identity and Motivation.” In Collaborative Creativity: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Dorothy Miell and Karen Littleton, 11–25. London: Free Association.Google Scholar
Nord, Christiane
2001 “Loyalty Revisited: Bible Translation as a Case in Point.” In The Return to Ethics, edited by Anthony Pym, special issue of The Translator 7 (2): 185–202.Google Scholar
2019NVivo Version 12 Pro. Chadstone, Victoria: QSR International.Google Scholar
O’Brien, Sharon
2011 “Collaborative Translation.” In Handbook of Translation Studies, Volume 2, edited by Yves Gambier and Luc Van Doorslaer, 17–20. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Paterson, Don
2006Orpheus: A Version of Rainer Maria Rilke. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
Raffel, Burton
1988The Art of Translating Poetry. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Sampson, Fiona
2012 “Creative Translation.” In The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing, edited by David Morley and Philip Nielsen, 118–132. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Sawyer, Keith
2007Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Schwimmer, Marina
2017 “Beyond Theory and Practice: Towards an Ethics of Translation.” Ethics and Education 12 (1): 51–61. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Searle, Rosalind H.
2004 “Creativity and Innovation in Teams.” In Collaborative Creativity: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Dorothy Miell and Karen Littleton, 175–188. London: Free Association.Google Scholar
Sternberg, Robert J., and Todd I. Lubart
1999 “The Concept of Creativity: Prospects and Paradigms.” In Handbook of Creativity, edited by Robert J. Sternberg, 3–15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Stockwell, Peter
2002Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Wallas, Graham
1926/2014The Art of Thought. Tunbridge Wells: Solis.Google Scholar
Ward, Thomas B., Steven M. Smith, and Ronald A. Finke
1999 “Creative Cognition.” In Handbook of Creativity, edited by Robert J. Sternberg, 189–212. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Weissbort, Daniel
2004From Russian with Love: Joseph Brodsky in English. London: Anvil.Google Scholar
Wood, David, Jerome S. Brunner, and Gail Ross
1976 “The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving.” Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology 17 (2): 89–100. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Yong, Kevyn, Stephen J. Sauer, and Elizabeth A. Mannix
2014 “Conflict and Creativity in Interdisciplinary Teams.” Small Group Research 45 (3): 266–289. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Zwischenberger, Cornelia
2016 “On Why ‘Translaboration’ is Synonymous with Transdisciplinarity and What This Means for Us.” Paper presented at Translab workshop, University of Westminster, London, September 12.