Thursday, 17 January 2013

translations (part four)

  by Willis Barnstone


 --fourth and final part--

features excerpts of the essay only: follow the link to read in full
illustrations are from the international exhibition ofcalligraphy

With these reservations here are some general observations on the practice of the art of translating poetry.

Nassar Mansour, This day let no reproach be (cast) upon you
Only a punk sees freedom and error as synonyms

Of course Quintilian, being an eloquent grammarian, suggested the translation of quality oration rather than of the poem. 


The translator poet is a blatant robber but should not kill the other author or steal her very name from her.

Sashida Takefusa
Scent of the Moon

The Chinese call the method of the great Tang poets of working imaginatively while being bound by strictures "dancing in chains."


Critical for the poem is when it changes tongues, that moment of translation truth when fire and knowledge come alive to commingle and create. In that instant the poem becomes everything or nothing.


A translator operates in the unknown. To choose the unknown path risks loss—and often brings gain. The translator must gamble on gains to balance losses. 

Choice is also a venture against loss. 

Vitaly Shapovalov
Solomon’s Song of songs (Winter)


The vulgate flowers of virgin translation drop voluptuous seeds into the new, volatile language.


The translator is a writer


A translation is an x-ray, not a xerox. A poet translator is a xenophiliac.

Vsevolod Sventokhovsky, Letter “У”. The Terratological Alphabet series


A translator spends a life asking y, but the I (even puffed up as the one Creator Eye) knows it's for u.


Good translation of poetry is essential to a hungry reader .... writers still scrawl their words in a thousand scripts, pile them up on mounds of hope and futurity, awaiting translation. Translation is a zoo and a heavenly zion.

From The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice by Willis Barnstone, published by Yale University Press, pp. 265-271. © 1993 by Willis Barnstone. Used with permission. All rights reserved.


Reed pen that was used for “This day let no reproach be (cast) on you”, 2009

Kalam (reed pen) ~ Nassar Mansour

This day let no reproach be (cast) on you
Surah 12, ayah 92
Treated paper, Arabic ink, 23ct red and 22ct yellow crashed gold and natural pigments, reed pen, 33x44 cm, 2009
 + Kalam (reed pen) 

Scent of the Moon
European paper, Japanese ink (Sumi), Japanese Raccoon dog-hair brash (Fude), 64x94 cm, 2008

Solomon’s Song of songs (Winter)
Aquarelle, paper, soft, round, pointed brushes, 47x35 cm, 2008
+ quote below

Letter “У”. The Terratological Alphabet series
Paper, pencil, 34x44 cm, 1998
The work of authorship

How did it all happen? “The word appeared the first…”. More words appeared later and started to be shown on stone, clay, papyrus etc. There is no need to say how spiritually, beautifully and originally the innumerable number of phrases and texts look in different languages and, consequently, in different scripts ...

--parts one to three--

Aug 05, 2012
I include this primer on the translation of poetry with pleasure and diffidence since I dislike dogma or prescription. Why not show preferences, to use Jorge Luis Borges' favorite word for choice, judgment, discrimination, and ...
Aug 25, 2012
H Heaven is the instant of translation. The poet in hot anticipation, with all the skills and preparation for walking in paradise, creates. I A translation aspires to independence, yet even when apparently achieved, the dream is ...

Nov 20, 2012
The two main questions [Randa] Abou-Bakr tackled during her talk were, “Is translating poetry at all possible?” and, “Why does translating poetry matter?” Although American poet Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is what gets ...

~Plenty of ways to make sense~

The more I live and the more I learn, the more I feel that all poets derive from one soul. If Yeats had been born in the late Tang Dynasty he would probably have been Li Shangyin 李商隐. If I'd been born in nineteenth-century New England and was a solitary woman, who knows but that I would have been another Emily Dickinson? If I didn't become her, well, then who would? 
~Wang Jiaxin, Traveling Poetry and the Presence of Soul: An Interview with Wang Jiaxin

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