From left to right, María Laura Spoturno, author Seymour Mayne, Véronique Lessard, and Marc Charron. Photo: Rhea Verma/Fulcrum
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Mayne and his translation team present Wind and Wood at book launch

The new academic year brings fresh creative opportunities for both aspiring student writers and for those who have been writing for decades. University of Ottawa professor Seymour Mayne has kicked this year off with his 76th publication, consisting of his selected compilation of 14-line word sonnets translated in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The book, Wind and Wood, was a collaborative project between Mayne, who wrote the poems in English, along with French, Spanish and Portuguese translators at the University of Ottawa and in Argentina and Brazil. 

“When I was about 12 or 13, I began to get these impulses to write, and I began to study poetry in high school,” Mayne explained when asked how he began his writing journey.

“‘I continue to write so I’ll never forget,’ [my late teacher] said to me. ‘Listen, I know you. You’re gonna write all the way through, like me.’ So he’s right, I’m still writing. And that’s now over 50 years that I’ve been doing it,” said Mayne. 

Also in attendance at the book launch was María Laura Spoturno, a professor at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata and the book’s translation coordinator, who travelled from Argentina to attend the book launch.

The translation project was an optional activity for Spoturrno’s third- and fourth-year undergraduate students, of which about 60 were involved in the book’s Spanish translation.

“In class, we would discuss different versions, different possibilities, losses, and gains in order to come to a group version of those three columns,” said Spoturno. “We would do that repeatedly in each of the sessions until we came across the first manuscript.”

Spoturno also coordinated with her Brazillian colleague Maria Da Conceição Vinciprova Fonseca, as well asMarc Charron and Véronique Lessard from the U of O, for the Portuguese and French translation. 

Mayne has noticed recurring themes not just within Wind and Wood but between his books. He continually comes back to the same themes in his writing, just concerning different events to reflect the current interests of society. 

“Everything I ever wrote with these (sonnets) is one book. We put them into books separately, but actually, every book is connected to every other book,” Mayne said. 

“Life tends to bring different experiences and different things [are always] happening,” he said. “As an artist, you respond to both what is obvious and sometimes what is deeply running in the current society.”

Mayne not only writes his own poetry but teaches it at the U of O. Mayne employs what he calls the “unique method” in which he’ll recommend students read authors who fit into what they’re trying to write. If a student has a comedic streak, for instance, Mayne will recommend some comedy writers. In the same vein, Mayne also advocates sticking to what makes you unique.

“When you find you start writing something and some of your friends don’t like it, don’t give up, and keep that line. Even if you’re taking creative writing and you’re around other older writers, stick to what is yours,” Mayne said. “You’re most unique when you’re yourself, not when you ape someone else.”

Like a mother asked to name her favourite child, Mayne can’t name a favourite poem in the new collection, for fear that the other poems might get envious. 

“I don’t have any favourites because I don’t want any of the poems to be jealous of each other. And they may start talking behind my back to each other and conspire against me next time I write a poem to stifle my great devotion if they do. They’re all my favourites.”


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