June 17th, 2003

An Accident of Translation

Some time ago, I ran across a lovely poem by Heather McHugh (go, read; that Web page even offers a recording of the poet reading her poem). Tonight I introduced ravell, ygurvitz, and antinous to it. They liked it too.

Coming home, I read ling_tso's sonnet and felt inspired. I thought I might translate it into Hebrew. Then I realized Hebrew distinguishes between lines of text and lines of contour, and uses two different words for them. So I thought perhaps not. Then I felt like a quitter. So I printed out the sonnet, and decided to stare at it until lines of translation form in my head, or not. Then I was reminded of the McHugh poem, and was seized by what Bloom would no doubt term The Anxiety of Antinous, so I decided to beat him to it.

Thus I find myself with two unpolished translations of two very different poems. The sonnet was harder, as McHugh's is almost conversational, but both were interesting. I have never translated free verse before, I think. Oh, wait, my very first poetry translation, I now recall, was of a short poem by Stephen Crane called "The Wayfarer". Hmm.

Anyhow, I shall not publish either of them without the author's permission, so I have written to both, and we shall have to see. And now, I shall to bed. (alone, alas, not having won Ling Tso...)
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