translation

Just out: Ashraf Fayadh’s ‘Instructions Within’

Very pleased to be back in New York, despite all — and find my copy of Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within, translated by Mona Kareem (with Mona Zaki and Jonathan Wright) and published by the operating system. And what a rare occasion it is, design-wise: the parti pris of choosing to print this bilingual (Arab-English) edition the way Arabic is read and printed, i.e., from right to left.

Very pleased to be back in New York, despite all — and find my copy of Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within, translated by Mona Kareem (with Mona Zaki and Jonathan Wright) and published by the operating system. And what a rare occasion it is, design-wise: the parti pris of choosing to print this bilingual (Arab-English) edition the way Arabic is read and printed, i.e., from right to left.

Gerry Loose: Eight further poems in ogham script with a note on poetics and translation

Church of the 3 Brethren     Lochgoilhead 

little saint of whitethorn

little quencher of wolf spark

welcome to the burial mounds

 

dear confessor of blood-red berries

sweet dweller of beehive cell

oaks make good gallow-trees

 

Notes on the translational Gothic

Or, how the weird enters the world, part two

The poems of George Trakl mulling/translating themselves in preparation for Chri
The poems of George Trakl mulling/translating themselves in preparation for Christian Hawkey's ‘Ventrakl.’ Image courtesy the artist.

The term “Gothic” is marvelously, if disconcertingly, fluid, designating at times both barbarian horde and proto-nationalist regime, pagan chieftain and Christian theocrat, aesthetic atrocity and high art; thus to speak of the “translational Gothic” is to speak of both the wild mutations possible through “infidel” translation and the wild translations implicit in the survival of the term Gothic itself. John Ruskin describes the Gothic as “the rough mineral … submitted to [the analysis] of the chemist, entangled with many other foreign substances, itself perhaps in no place pure, or ever to be obtained or seen in purity for more than an instant.” He nevertheless thinks that this instant — knit into the mess of centuries — is definable, much like Walter Benjamin’s faith in a translation that only momentarily, fleetingly touches upon the meaning of the original — or the meaning of “originality,” for that matter.

Alec Finlay: A poem of namings, from Gaelic and Norn

River Dee: photograph by Hannah Devereux, 2016 (from ‘gathering’)
River Dee: photograph by Hannah Devereux, 2016 (from ‘gathering’)

Alec Finlay is a Scottish poet and artist based in Edinburgh. These texts come from a series of ongoing projects derived from research into place names, in particular Gaelic (from his book gathering, forthcoming from Hauser & Wirth in 2018) and Norn — the dialect of Scots and Norse spoken in Orkney and Shetland Norn c. 1800 (from MinnMouth, forthcoming in 2017). This sequence derives from a performance given at the 2016 O-I/I-O Poetry Festival in Glasgow as a closer to the whole event.

 

Poetic uprisings

Poetry, knowledge, imagination

Georges Didi-Huberman at an October 2014 interview for the SON[I]A podcast series at Radio Web MACBA (Museu de'Art Contemporani de Barcelona). Photo by MACBA.

Note: The writing of the philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman is so tightly bound up with images, so rich in ways of seeing, that it may sound odd to say that he first mattered to me as an invisible voice on the radio, long before I familiarized myself with his books.

Gelmaning on

A review of 'Oxen Rage (Cólera buey)'

Photo of Juan Gelman (right) courtesy of Gianluca Battista, 2011.

Remarkably few volumes of poetry by Juan Gelman have been translated into English. This is perhaps because of the unique challenges inherent in translating his work, known for its neologisms, playful and musical language, and political exploitation of ambiguity — Gelman once wrote to his translator, Lisa Rose Bradford, “To be sure is a sickness of our times.

Remarkably few volumes of poetry by Juan Gelman have been translated into English.

José Kozer and what unfolds

Photo by Keyselim Montas.

“Where New York poets and others … tended to hear a ‘cool,’ abstract, even cerebral, poetry,” writes Peter Boyle in the translator’s essay accompanying this feature, “in Latin America a more emotional, threatening, and visceral ‘magic’ surrealism developed.” Boyle places Cuban poet José Kozer’s work in this surrealist camp: time and reality become warped and subjective in Kozer’s neobaroque poems.

José Kozer's stylistics

Religion, the surreal, and the neobaroque

Photo of José Kozer (left) by Carlos Blackburn.

Across a long, extraordinarily prolific career, Cuban poet José Kozer (born in Havana, 1940) is remarkable for the consistency of his style. His work has been viewed as part of the Latin American neobaroque movement — a loose grouping of poets from the 1970s onwards who preferred a dense, multidimensional approach rather than the then-common plainspoken colloquial or conversational style — yet Kozer’s poetry is very much sui generis.

Translating difficulty

On Ouyang Jianghe

Ouyang Jianghe’s poetry presents to any translator the difficult decision of whether or not to pursue his work as a language artifact to be translated as close to literally as possible, or whether to amplify its implicit beliefs, and its abstractions — through a historical lens, or otherwise. But since he is said by translator Austin Woerner to be known as the “most hermetic of the Chinese hermetic poets,” we can expect a pronounced “cryptic language” that doesn’t easily yield access to, as Woerner describes it, “the poem’s mystery.”[2] In such a case, translating in a straightforward manner may be an unproductive task. So, in Woerner’s case, he decides to “show only enough [of the original] to tempt the imagination, inviting the reader to see in it what she wishes,” using the poem as “a tool for contemplation, a mandala or maze among whose many turnings the reader can pick her own path” (23).

[I]f there are strong ambiguities in the original poem, there’s no need to select only one possible sense and then translate that: instead, translate one ambiguity into another! Don’t try to solve the problem: translate it! — J. H. Prynne[1] 

Translation, free & wild: Catherine Theis on Catullus, the newlyloved, & other dislocations

Catherine Theis. Photo by Jessica Savitz.
Catherine Theis. Photo by Jessica Savitz.

Catherine Theis's The Fraud of Good Sleep begins the delicious logbook of its dreaming with the ancients who "loved in a way that allowed / them to relay their delicate campaigns / across opposite seas," a surety of guidance, if not arrival. No matter. As Hélène Cixous counsels in The School of Dreams, "This is what writing is, starting off. . . . This does not mean one will get there. Writing is not arriving; most of the time it's not arriving."

Most mornings I set out from my house to run — albeit not with any speed — urban sidewalks that lead to trafficked boulevards that merge with a California State Park trail, switch-backing up a hill of some height.

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