is poetry translation possible? – Kirsch and Kaminsky


The realities of the world change. Languages such as Chinese, Spanish, French, and English are no longer confined to their original geographic locations (and some, like Yiddish, exist outside geography), and we certainly—thank God!—no longer live in the world Wyatt knew. That more poets are available to us is a great thing, and there is no reason to assume that people who are serious about contemporary poetry are going to be satisfied with a few anthologies and will abstain from a “good deal of study.” You cite Wyatt and Akhmatova as you say that too much is available: Armenian! Marathi! But as her contemporaries’ memoirs clearly tell us, Akhmatova did read quite a lot of poetry translated from Armenian. If she did, then why in the world shouldn’t we? No need to hide behind the large sign “Poetry is lost in translation” and pretend that works of art written elsewhere do not exist or should not be available to us. They exist. The genius of our literature, as you rightly quote Pound, feeds on our interaction with these works, and so there is a clear need for them to be brought over into English, if the genius of our literature is to be sustained.

more at Poetry here.