About

A short history of Exchanges

by founding editor Daniel Weissbort

Exchanges began in 1989-90, as a project of the Iowa Translation Workshop when I was director. The first issue was cyclostyled, the title being copied from Ulalume González de León’s short story “Intercambios,” translated by Stephanie Lovelady, a student in the Workshop. All texts were presented bilingually. The idea was a simple one: to provide a focus, giving workshop members a sense of working towards publication. Iowa, with its unique combination of Creative Writing Program, Literary Translation Program, and International Writing Program, seemed the ideal location for such a project. As editor of Modern Poetry in Translation, which with Ted Hughes I had founded in England, in 1965, I tended to see many things in terms of magazine publication anyway!

While initially we concentrated on work done at Iowa, especially in collaborative translations done with visiting international writers—the opportunity, after all, was far too good to be missed and could be replicated nowhere else—we soon looked further afield.

It should be said that the journal, experimentally begun by myself some years ago now, could not have continued without the input and work of a succession of editorial assistants, drawn from the Iowa Translation Workshop. While it continued to represent work done at Iowa and in collaboration with the International Writing Program, Exchanges had now metamorphosed into a national magazine, attracting contributions widely, so that Workshop members had to compete with the best in the country, which I like to think was enough to stimulate but not so awe-inspiring as to discourage. We now began also to review important publications in the field of translation.

We had throughout taken advantage of improving technologies to enhance the presentation of the magazine and secure it wider distribution but, of course, with the advent of the Internet, possibilities have vastly expanded. Exchanges can now aspire to becoming what we had always hoped for it, but had lacked the means of achieving.

Iowa continues to provide it with a solid and appropriate home base. In a sense, all translation activities at Iowa stemmed from Paul Engle’s original vision and initiative, back in 1963, when Edmund Keeley, on Paul’s invitation, taught the very first translation workshop in the country. It was, of course, Paul and Hualing Engle who later founded the unique International Writing Program. I like to think of Exchanges as part of that international effort. Paul was a great believer in getting your work out, and he understood the importance of translation, celebrating a multiplicity of cultures and facilitating intertraffic or exchange between them.

— DW



Learn more about the Iowa Translation Workshop here.