Online | Translation | Workshop

3-Week Translation Workshop: French Translation & Poetics

In Essays One, Lydia Davis’s recommendation for good writing habits is to “translate at least one piece of writing…”

Hence, in this workshop we will focus on what is gained translating into a language we are somewhat familiar with, focusing on literature originally written in French. This course will focus on a few readings about translation from writers like Lydia Davis and a few close translations of French texts like classic poems from Arthur Rimbaud and Pierre Reverdy.

During each session, students will be guided through the process of translating a literary piece of writing (or an excerpt depending on the level) from an important French and/or Francophone artist. Then, we will compare what we have with an existing translation when available. We will focus on creativity, writing moves, and finding/honing our voice.

The class will culminate in a short writing session (in any genre, fiction or nonfiction, in English or French) using elements we’ve discovered in the texts we worked on and in our translations.

While you'll need to have basic reading knowledge in French to enroll in this class, there are no other prerequisites for taking this workshop.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. 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. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Learning and discussing translation strategies in accordance to each cultural context

- Learning and discussing some writing strategies and practices

- Introduction to the poetic of each author

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


- Participants are expected to read the material sent prior to the class (specific translation document in preparation to the in-class translation work)

- Participants are encouraged to start writing the (1 page) text using some of the techniques viewed during the workshop. Students will share the texts for feedback during the last class meeting. Prose, poetry, and lyrics are welcome.

- Participants will be expected to give written feedback on a limited number of peer submissions.

- Participants are expected to translate the text(s) provided during the workshop and participate in the following discussion

Weekly, participants have access to the document they have to read prior to each class on the Catapult website.

After the first workshop, students can keep working on their translation and share them at least 3 days prior to the next workshop so I can give notes and advice

COURSE SKELETON (subject to change):

Week 1: Prose poetry: Pierre Reverdy and Arthur Rimbaud

Week 2: From Rimbaud to MC Solaar

Week 3: From Translation to Creation: cultural knowledge, translation/writing strategies, and workshop

Nadia Bongo

Nadia Bongo is a writer, translator, and educator based in Harlem. She grew up in her country, Gabon, and in France. She holds a PhD in French language and literature from Aix Marseille Université. In 2018, Nadia was selected to attend a Cave Canem Workshop. In 2021, she was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow (Spring) and Brooklyn Poets of the Week (September). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Public Library zine, Newtown Literary, Litro Magazine, African Voices, and elsewhere.


"I found Ms. Bongo to be a first rate instructor and a thoughtful and enthusiastic colleague. We have been very lucky to work with Nadia over the years. Her kindness, intelligence, and dedication to her craft are just some of the qualities that make her an exemplary instructor."

Margie Cook Associate Manager of Public Programs at New York Public Library

"I loved my classes with Nadia. Nadia is an incredibly kind and interested professor, and her care for her subject and students is evident in all she does. Her interdisciplinary approach to teaching provides a rich foundation for conversation and a range of access points for a variety of learners. Not only did I leave Nadia’s classes with a deeper understanding of the subjects at hand, but I also left them with a greater understanding of the subjects contextualized. Nadia’s classes make learning accessible, engaging, and fun!"

Sophie Boka Writer and Master's student at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

"Nadia is a generous reader and is someone whose feedback I've been very grateful for. As a mindful enjoyer but also critic of poetry, she further explores the images, music, and language of any poem – much to the benefit of any poet. She engages with a poem from multiple angles (what's presented within the lines, what the poem is suggesting, how the poem interacts with the reality of the world vs. the reality established in the text, etc.) to further highlight the work that the writer is doing. She develops rapport and connection very quickly, and easily identifies the strengths a writer may have, but also knows how to encourage them to tap into something less familiar. Having been both a fellow student with her in a workshop and also being part of a writing group that she helped facilitate, I think she would be an excellent instructor for any craft aspect of poetry."

J.C. Rodriguez Writer, Educator and MFA student at Syracuse University

"If you get the chance to study with Nadia Bongo — take it. She is a deeply gifted poet and educator whose work is precise, brave and electric. I can't recommend her enough."

Emily Sernaker Poet and Adjunct professor at The New School

"Nadia’s stories and poems suffuse the senses. They are anchored by the simplest, most strikingly rendered images: the lone deciduous tree, the Wels catfish on a plate, granules of soil. These images act as a springboard, leaping and diving in surprising, vivid ways, weaving into reflections on migration, memory, nostalgia, and belonging. The softly rendered music of her repetitions will dwell in your mind like a lullaby long after you leave the page."

Sara Daniele Rivera writer, educator and co-translator of THE BLINDING STAR: SELECTED POEMS BY BLANCA VARELA