Every Thursday evening, in a quieter corner of University of Pennsylvania’s campus, our staff meets to read translations, chat, laugh, and take a breath of fresh air from the bustle of student life. DoubleSpeak meetings typically unfold into a smattering of multilingual crossfire as we review submissions from translators hailing from Bangkok, Ankara, Santiago, Philadelphia, or any number of other places across the globe.
In a way, translating is like re-learning language. Although we are not children — we have classes, jobs, internships, and a hoard of other social and academic responsibilities — via translation and reading translation, we’re constantly learning new concepts, words, and ways of being. We realize that certain things — like the sentence “watching her watching you” — flow so much more easily in English and Mandarin than in French... but that English is deeply lacking in specific vocabulary to refer to one’s homeland. We’re asked for a little over an hour each week to rethink our biases about the interrelationship between languages and cultures the world over. Is French really that dissimilar from Japanese? Do we really differ that greatly from those sitting across from us as at our weekly meetings at Penn’s Kelly Writers’ House? And how can we share these communal bonds with those beyond our family at DoubleSpeak?
In growing to know what it means to live in a community at Penn, in West Philadelphia, and globally, we are constantly presented with gaps in cultural information (e.g. the nearly endless string of new acronyms for university offices, getting a feel for the ease with which West Philadelphians greet each other in passing, whether or not shoes should be worn in the house, etc.). Throughout the transition to a world outside of lockdown, the DoubleSpeak community has been a source of comfort in translation. Translation, much like new chapters of our lives, is an exercise in unveiling meaning in and adding personal connection to things that would otherwise be daunting or unintelligible. These life experiences find their way into each new translation we read, saturating the poems and informing the way we read them.
Again and again, memory has come up organically this semester as a comforting and grounding topic of conversation in DoubleSpeak meetings. Most often, these conversations spiral into memories of childhood: the shade of yellow crayon we would always hope to find in the corner of an old box, the smell of rain in the places we grew up, the collective memory of hugging someone you thought was a parent but was very much not, or the seemingly monotonous weekend routines of years past that we yearn to revisit.
In a word, it’s whimsy that has captivated our staff this school year. In reviewing pieces for our 2023 issue, we saw ourselves and our stories in each translation and narrative. Even when reading more emotionally heavy materials, this link of narrative dialogue held true. Whimsy pulls us into conversation and keeps a spring in our step, encouraging us to uncover the extraordinary in everything we do.
Without further ado, we present to you the Spring 2023 issue of DoubleSpeak Magazine. May you be guided, as we were, by this collection’s whimsy.
Warmly from West Philly,
Ryan Hardy, Chardonnay Needler, and Stacy Shimanuki