Post #2. On translations and Poems. Jackson Warmack.

Option Two: It’s interesting that different translators have different ideas of what a good translation constitutes (to capture the work most literally vs. to recapture the experience of the first readers). It’s also odd that trends in translation, and “the right translations” of works change with time. Are translators who follow current trends in academia, rather than translating a book how they want to, really translating that work? In letting society influence translations, are translators listening to the markets more than the authors that they’re translating? If so, can they still claim to be producing complete and accurate translations?

Option Three: Poems are incredibly hard to translate. I’ve tried to do it myself, and I’ve read plenty of translated poems. They don’t feel complete. Should we be translating poems at all? I don’t think so. And if we insist on doing so, translators have to be clear that their translations are not similar to the work they emulate. 

Poems rely on beat, sound, and rhyme just as much as they rely on the words in them. We can attempt to translate a poem and keep the same beat and rhyme structure, but then the words change. And then connotations, references, and meanings change. We claim that translators can remedy this by adding footnotes — but footnotes are possibly the least poetic form of writing available. And jumping between poem and footnote certainly interrupts the flow of a poem. 

Poems can have ideas or stories in them that need to be passed on. But poems don’t move well between languages. Let’s pass on poems to people who live in other countries, to people who speak different languages. But let’s do it through summary. A translated poem will never be like the original.

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