The first forms of poetry are believed to have been recited or sung—and to this day, poems continue to be set to music. What, then, is the difference between poetry and song lyrics? Should translators take a different approach when translating song lyrics vs. poetry?
Meanwhile, K-Pop incorporates many loanwords or phrases from English to appeal to the global music market dominated by U.S. hegemony. Sometimes English versions of the Korean songs are released as well. Can we learn how to translate lyrics from these alternative versions that make use of rhyme and wordplay?
This two-day, four-hour intensive will explore all these questions as students try to rewrite “Palette" by IU from two existing translations and sing their new English lyrics along the original melody. Yes, this class ends in a one-song karaoke party!
This class is ideal for writers of all experience levels, especially poets, who enjoy listening to music in different languages and who would like to write or “musically arrange” a translation. Fluency in Korean is not required. Students may share their work during the second day and receive oral feedback if they wish.
One full-ride scholarship will be awarded for this class to a BIPOC writer. To apply, please send [email protected] your bio and a brief (100-word) statement on why taking this class is important to you by August 15th, with the subject line "Soje K-Pop Class Scholarship."
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Introduction to song lyric translations
- Familiarity with the craft and ethics of literary translation
- Encouragement to play and experiment within a set melody
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should come to class having watched the assigned lyric videos for Day 1 and be prepared to share their translations and give oral feedback to their peers during Day 2.
Day 1: 2 hours
- Students briefly introduce themselves
- Class watches the “Palette” lyric video
- Students examine the transliteration against two existing translations to discuss what they notice about the song
- Class discusses the two versions of “Regular” and “MAFIA in the morning"
- Come up with a draft to share on day 2
Day 2: 2 hours
- Students discuss what was fun and/or challenging about this process
- Students share their drafts with the class (singing encouraged) and receive oral feedback
Soje is the translator of Lee Hyemi’s Unexpected Vanilla (Tilted Axis Press, 2020), Choi Jin-young’s To the Warm Horizon (Honford Star, 2021), and Lee Soho’s Catcalling (Open Letter Books, 2021). They also make chogwa, a quarterly e-zine featuring one Korean poem and multiple English translations. They served as Modern Poetry in Translation’s 2020 Writer in Residence.
“CATCALLING by Lee Soho is a playful, ferocious uprising against patriarchal order, and Soje is a rising star-translator of South Korea’s new wave of innovative feminist and queer poetry.”
“Adjectives like brilliant can’t do this collection justice. It’s the quick we try not to cut to; it’s everything—it razes and reimagines everything—and Soje's translation seizes all the opportunities it offers.”
"The incessant fluidity of Lee Hyemi’s images in Soje’s careful, sensitive translation, sees Unexpected Vanilla explicitly dissolving these oppressive, fixed structures – ‘blurring the boundaries of the world.'"
“With Soje, translation doesn’t stay on the page. They bring people together to play and flirt and dance with languages. It is in equal parts party and poetry, leaving everyone a little wiser, freer, and downright gleeful.”
“While I've obviously benefited on numerous occasions from their life-saving editing, I've also learned an incredible amount from their translation practice in how they think and conduct themselves as a literary translator.”
“Soje is a talented writer whose insights are always delivered with eloquence and wit. They can make me laugh and cry in a single paragraph. I learn so much from their generous feedback, through which they not only offer concrete suggestions but also open up the possibility to be curious together.”