White author writes poem in response to criticism it was inappropriate to translate Amanda Gorman’s work – Insider

  • The Dutch translator who was meant to translate Amanda Gorman’s book wrote their own poem.
  • The poem is a response to the backlash Marieke Lucas Rijneveld faced after the Gorman furor last week.
  • Rijneveld said they decided to step down because they were “able to grasp when it / isn’t your place.”
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The Dutch author who withdrew from the job of translating Amanda Gorman’s book last week has responded to the backlash they faced by writing a poem of their own.

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld announced on Twitter last week that Amsterdam-based publisher Meulenhoff had chosen them to translate Gorman’s highly anticipated poetry collection titled “The Hill We Climb” into Dutch.

However, the non-binary author was met with intense criticism online and by people in the media, who argued that it would be inappropriate for a white person to translate Gorman’s book. 

Among those who criticized the decision was the Dutch cultural activist and journalist Janice Deul.

In an opinion piece for the newspaper de Volkskrant, she said: “Not to take anything away from Rijneveld’s qualities, but why not choose a writer who is — just like Gorman — a spoken-word artist, young, female, and unapologetically Black?”

Rijneveld immediately agreed to withdraw from the project, writing on Twitter: “I had happily devoted myself to translating Amanda’s work, seeing it as the greatest task to keep her strength, tone, and style. However, I realize that I am in a position to think and feel that way, where many are not.”

But now, the Dutch author has written a poem in response to the backlash they faced.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, Rijneveld wrote: “The best way to express my thoughts and feelings to the upheaval surrounding the translation of Amanda Gorman was by writing a poem.” 

In the poem, first published by the Guardian, Rijneveld writes in the second person and says they have been “able to grasp when it / isn’t your place, when you must kneel for a poem because / another person can make it more inhabitable.”

Here is the opening verse:

Never lost that resistance and yet able to grasp when it
isn’t your place, when you must kneel for a poem because
another person can make it more inhabitable; not out of
unwillingness, not out of dismay, but because you know
there is so much inequality, people still discriminated against,

The full version of the poem can be found here

The poem ends with a cry for togetherness and “fraternity” and with an admission that “maybe your / hand isn’t yet powerful enough.”

Rijneveld has previously won the International Booker for their debut novel, “The Discomfort of Evening.”

The Dutch author was chosen to translate the book by the American poet, CNN reported.

Gorman did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. However, the poet — who named her upcoming collection after the poem she famously performed at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January — retweeted the original tweet announcing the project.

 The publishing company Meulenhoff said earlier this week that it would now be looking for a new team “to bring Amanda’s words and message of hope and inspiration into translation as well as possible and in her spirit,” the Guardian reported.