translation

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.

Translating difficulty

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.

Welcoming the étrangère

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Chado, by way of Kakuzo Okakura's 1906 The Book of Tea.
Chado, by way of Kakuzo Okakura's 1906 The Book of Tea

Wise navigator of translation, Paul Ricoeur identifies the experience of crossing over languages as both challenge and source of happiness. Equipoise and equanimity arrive via linguistic hospitality, that sheltered inlet "where the pleasure of dwelling in the other's language is balanced by the pleasure of receiving the foreign word at home, in one's own welcoming house." We set anchor there. Low tide, walk through shallow waters to shore. We arrive someplace entirely new — and also strangely familiar.

[Objects] in motion

Photo of Frédéric Forte (right) by Margarita Saad Plasticienne.

Frédéric Forte’s mad, methodical Minute-Operas is broken into two parts: phase one, January–October 2001, and phase two, February–December 2002. Each phase is itself broken into five twelve-page sections.

Phase one

(Polish) Poetry after Różewicz

Tadeusz Różewicz.

I proselytize for Tadeusz Różewicz (1921–2014) and his poetic legacy as a new convert, not with unique insight into his importance or his poetics. That I leave to the eleven Polish poets sampled here (and several translators), who can testify better than I can.

On Różewicz and contemporary Polish poetry

The way the poetry of Tadeusz Różewicz (1921–2014) is used by the school system in Poland shows how we disfigure some poets to make them palatable. The educational package has it that his was an attempt to rebuild the basic powers of language after the catastrophe of human slaughter in this part of the world during WWII.

Nine poems by Kacper Bartczak (b. 1972)

Beyond the Helplessness Principle

Something will occur and at once it will be found

among other occurrences I know

that the heaviest dreams are only an illusion

I know it from experience I see my own

experience now that it is over

Of course it is still alive statistical

and divine

On Różewicz and Wojciech Bonowicz

On Różewicz and Wojciech Bonowicz

Like many a poet of his generation, Bonowicz has read Tadeusz Różewicz as both an apprentice and an interlocutor. After all it was the old master who, having cleansed his verse of what he deemed superfluous ornamentation, demonstrated that it was possible to write poetry after Auschwitz. In doing so, Różewicz aimed to make sense of our postapocalyptic existence by questioning the basic principles of human nature and language’s role as our would-be ally in the process of acquiring meaning.

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