I’ve been asked to comment on Ron Silliman’s excellent talk “Your Monsters Are Our Monsters: The Problem of Borders and the Nearness of the American Avant-Garde.” In Silliman’s “L-shaped talk,” the shape itself merits consideration.
In working last week with translator and writer (and multimedia, book designer and theatre guy) Daniel Canty on his current translation in progress of Little Theatres as Petits Théâtres, I remembered the original inspiration for the wee bilingual Galician-English dictionary at the back of my theatres. It was my childhood Whitman Classics edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. No wonder that I’d always been drawn to translation!
I started thinking about Rita Copeland's book in remembering my experience in 2009 with Chus Pato and a few younger translators and poets in Galicia, translating poems out of English and into Galician, on Facebook! First, some Wallace Stevens—poet Oriana Méndez had felt on reading WS in English that the Spanish translations she had earlier read were inadequate—and as there were none in Galician, we made a couple. Then I turned to “Wooden Houses” by Lisa Robertson, which originally appeared in April 2005 in Jacket 27, and later was included in Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip. Just wanting to share Robertson's work in Galician. Chus Pato helped me immensely in my task.
“Wooden Houses” was written in Vancouver, Canada (forests, rain, a country of wooden houses), and became “Casas de madeira” (forests, rain, a country of stone houses), thus transferring not just the poem but the very materiality and vernacular of “wooden house.”
That title is my favourite of the three translations I made of the title of Pascal Quignard’s poem Inter Aerias Fagos — Among Aerial Beeches, or In the Canopy of Beeches — republished in 2011 in the beautiful volume INTER, and slipped to me recently by poet Chantal Neveu. “You should write about this,” she said.