ted hughes as poet-translator


Translation is an imperfect art – even an impossible one. That is the truism. But it would be a very eccentric devotee of literature who for lack of Greek or Russian refused to read Homer or Tolstoy. Lyric poetry is more challenging to the translator than narrative literature is, since little can be separated out from the choice of specific words, their sounds, rhythms and associations, to say nothing of poetic form and the elaborations of syntax. That is why there are lyric poets of the first rank – Goethe and Pushkin are prime examples – whose poems are not as well known in Britain as their fame might lead us to expect. Nevertheless, most good poets attempt translation in the course of a life’s work and serious readers of poetry will want to have some familiarity with, let us say, Catullus or Baudelaire. There are those who claim, moreover, that poetry is essentially metamorphic – a process that includes negotiations with other texts and the transformation of experience into language, rhythm and form. To such a conception of poetry, the act of verse translation is fundamental.

more from the TLS here.