Dr. Jamie Olson has been awarded a Literature Translation Fellowship to support translation of Russian poet Timur Kibirov
September 7, 2016

LACEY, Wash. – The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded Saint Martin’s University Associate Prof. and Chair of English Jamie Olson, Ph.D., a Literature Translation Fellowship to support his translations of the works of contemporary Russian poet Timur Kibirov.

The NEA is a federal agency that supports and funds opportunities to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations and develop their creative capacities. Their partnerships with state and local agencies and with others in the philanthropic and cultural sectors support the artistic endeavors and the rich and diverse culture of the United States. Its Literature Translation Fellowships are primarily awarded to recipients translating works of literary excellence and value by writers who are not well represented in English translation, with the broad goal of expanding opportunities for readers to better understand other cultures and traditions.

"I’m honored to receive this award, and I think the National Endowment for the Arts’ support for translation is really wonderful. They’re doing a great service to readers. Less than three percent of books published in America are translated from another language, but the NEA is working hard to change that situation,” Olson said. “Until a translator brings a work of literature into English, we literally don’t know what we’re missing. What would the world look like if we didn’t have Sappho’s poems, Tolstoy’​​s novels, or Kafka’s stories? We need translators: they open our eyes to cultures beyond our own."

Jeff Crane, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “Dr. Jamie Olson’s colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences are proud of him for winning the NEA Fellowship. This is a highly competitive program and the award recognizes the valuable contribution he makes in translating Russian poetry and making it accessible to a broader audience.”

Beginning in November, Olson will receive a grant of $12,500 for the year to assist in his work translating Kibirov’s “When Lenin Was a Little Boy: Selected Poems.” Kibirov, who lives in Moscow, has penned more than 20 poetry collections. His many honors include the “Anti-Booker” award, a Joseph Brodsky Memorial Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, and, in 2008, Russia’s prestigious “Poet” prize. He is viewed as a gadfly who seeks to tear down Russian secular traditions, such as Marxism, nationalism and the literary canon, says Olson. Despite the poet’s stature in Russia, his works are basically unavailable in English.

“This collection will gather poems from across 30 years of his career,” Olson said. “In the late Soviet period, Kibirov was closely associated with underground poets like Lev Rubinstein, Dmitri Prigov, and Sergey Gandlevsky, and his work is often identified with postmodernism and conceptualism. Readers are drawn in by his playful reinterpretations of classic texts, including ancient myths, canonical literary works, Soviet ideology, and even scripture.”

On Olson’s most recent study-tour to Russia this summer, he was invited to give a talk, "Marines Love Poetry, Too: Military Service, Literary Studies, and Russian Translation,” at the American Center of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Olson is a polished Russian translator. After serving in the U.S. Marines for six years, he pursued a degree in English at the College of Saint Scholastica, a fellow Benedictine institution in Minnesota. While there, he participated in a short study-abroad experience in Petrozavodsk, Russia, where he “was bitten by the Russian bug,” he says. Since that time, he has mastered the language and made numerous research and study trips to Russia. He also has helped establish and lead a popular study tour program between students and faculty of Saint Martin’s and those of the Karelian State Pedagogical Academy in Petrozavodsk.

A member of the American Literary Translators Association, he has completed English translations of many Russian literary texts, including fiction by Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak and poetry by Vyacheslav Kiktenko and Irina Yevsa. His translations have been published in several journals. He also writes a blog, “The Flaxen Wave: On Poetry, Translation, and Russian Culture.” http://flaxenwave.blogspot.com

At Saint Martin’s, he teaches composition, contemporary poetry, post-colonial literature, exile and immigration, Russian literature and language and translation, as well as teaching interdisciplinary courses with fellow faculty members.   

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washing­ton. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedic­tine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 340 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at www.stmartin.edu.

For more information:
Jamie L. Olson, Ph.D.
Chair and Associate Professor
English Department
360 438-4302; jolson@stmartin.edu

Jeff Crane
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
360-438-4564; JCrane@stmartin.edu 

Deanna Partlow
Interim Media Relations Manager
360 412-6126; dpartlow@stmartin.edu