translation

WCW's voice near the end: Green moss

typescript of William Carlos Williams translation of a poem by Li Po

One of my favorite bits of William Carlos Williams’s writing in the last years. It is dated February 26, 1958. On that day WCW sent a letter of Chinese American poet David Rafael Wang. Wang was something of a Poundian (a correspondent of Pound’s — and a bit of a Poundian nut). WCW sent Wang a quick translation he’d just then done of a poem by Li Po, and added a note: “You can't translate it and give its brevity and overtones that are given in the original language.” True enough, but what WCW does I find pretty compelling. Above I’ve reproduced the look of the letter’s page. I've always felt that the voice heard (not heard — pictured) is simultaneously both that of WCW and of Pound and that this letter to Wang was a message to Pound. I haven’t looked in the Wang-Pound papers to see if indeed Wang passed along some word of this to Pound but I’m betting he did.

Translation boom

John Timpane writes in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer about translation. He wants to know why there’s such a surge in translations of poetry?

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