Spectacular night celebrating literature and language that was not lost in translation

Abby Cleaver covers JoLT’s first launch party of the year and discusses its significance in the Irish literary scene

Adorning an otherwise typical Friday night at Chaplin’s, this launch event celebrated JoLT’s first issue of volume 12. The issue’s theme “tradition” acquired new resonance as this year’s staff began a new tradition in the journal’s first ever summer issue. 

Speaking on the decision to implement a third issue, Editor-in-Chief Eoghan Conway stated the staff discussed and thought: “we might as well give it a shot.” If this commendable expansion wasn’t reason enough for a party already, this issue itself was a huge success in displaying translation pieces from all over Trinity, necessitating  an event for them to be read and appreciated. The upstairs room in Chaplin’s became a space for art and language to collide, with everyone in attendance captivated by the passion of the writers as they read their work aloud to the room. Despite the loud atmosphere, the noise downstairs was drowned out as the attendees became completely immersed in the readings – and as one of the general assistant editors and self-appointed bouncer dutifully ensured the door remained shut to provide readers with the respectful absence of distraction. 

“It was incredible to hear so many languages being spoken and celebrated in the middle of a small pub in Dublin, and wonderful to see how captivated so many could be as they carefully and thoughtfully listened to languages they could not entirely understand”

The range of languages covered in this issue, and read aloud on the night of the launch, was breathtakingly vast. French, Estonian, Lithuanian, Russian, German, and Chinese were featured, but not even the extent of all the languages available to read and hear on the night. The entire room shared an appreciation for language and art, relishing their collision. It was incredible to hear so many languages being spoken and celebrated in the middle of a small pub in Dublin, and wonderful to see how captivated so many could be as they carefully and thoughtfully listened to languages they could not entirely understand. I found myself equally engaged in the readings through English, Irish and German, which I would find familiar and be able to pick words and phrases out from, as I was hearing Russian and Chinese, languages I would be far from familiar with but quickly grew to appreciate for their unique sounds and contrast to their language pairing. The contributors also discussed the thought processes behind their choices and explained the links between their work and the theme of tradition.

The incredible artwork featured throughout the journal was a highlight. Penny Stuart, responsible for the cover art and multiple pieces within the issue, spoke about the pieces that she submitted. Stuart has featured in JoLT issues before for her art and has an active instagram account to which she posts her art regularly. Ava Cashell spoke about her artistic contribution, sinéad, a stunning portrait of Sinéad O’Connor. Ella Sloane also spoke about her piece, Sheela-na-gig, which she found inspiration for after seeing a real-life statue of a Sheela-na-gig while on her holidays. These works are only a taste of the art within JoLT’s summer issue. Many pieces were beautifully crafted, selected, and discussed by the contributors and everyone in attendance at the event. One attendee I spoke to commented that it was lovely to see a journal with such a stunning and ingrained fusion between the written and the visual, and I just had to agree. 

“… it is clear that JoLT has created a community of writers and contributors who cannot stay away”

The journal itself was a spectacular success. From the cover art to the translations within, the journal has been laid out by the journal’s talented layout and design editor Ayushmaan Kumar Yadav with JoLT’s classic and tasteful minimalist style. Clean lines and defined edges that are beautiful in its simplicity. The artwork was a welcome splash of visual and colour between the written word, and the pages dedicated to the contributors and their biographies were a nice touch of appreciation and personalisation pairing the work behind these creative acts. Looking at these lines about the contributors, it is clear that JoLT has created a community of writers and contributors who cannot stay away. This is evident as two of the previous Editor-in-Chiefs – Anastasia Fedosova 2022/23, and Cian Dunne 2021/22 – contributed to this latest issue. 

Dunne attended the recent launch and read his chosen poem aloud in the original Russian, the English translation, and his personal translation of the original poem into Irish. Speaking to Dunne after the launch, he said: “I chose to translate a poem written by Joseph Brodsky the year before his exile from the Soviet Union. Brodsky was a perfect choice of poet to translate in response to ‘tradition,’ with his contemporary Anna Akhmatova pronouncing him as ‘the carrier of the embers of Russian verse’ into the twentieth century… I decided to translate Brodsky’s poem from Russian into Irish, given that Irish is the second official language of the journal, and because I’d never attempted a translation between these two languages.” 

Deputy Editor Caroline Loughlin stressed the importance of the journal in the Irish literary scene, stating that “JoLT is certainly one of the more niche publications in Trinity, but it’s such an important one given that we have such a linguistically diverse and international student body. It’s great that we get to play a part in showcasing that.” Editor-in-Chief Eoghan Conway is of the same mind, believing that “JoLT offers a space for translation to be celebrated and published, unfortunately opportunities are few and far between these days… Translation is not only the interpretation of words, it’s the art of making an entire culture comprehensible. Translators are often the workhorses and unsung heroes of the publishing world. Without them works by non-English writers… could never be appreciated or enjoyed by the anglophone audience.”

After attending the launch party, I would have to concur with the editors on JoLT’s significance  within the Irish literary scene and translation’s importance to the arts. After all, comprising a great deal of media, from books and poetry to movie adaptations and beyond, translation is the cornerstone of connecting worlds and cultures. To have such a prominent and successful journal embodying this in Trinity is something to appreciate and support. 

JoLT plans to open submissions for its first term issue at the start of October on the theme of Modernity. To keep up to date with JoLT, their submission deadlines and planned events, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @trinityjolt.

Abby Cleaver

Abby Cleaver is the current life editor at Trinity News, having previously served as comment editor, and is a final year English literature and philosophy student.