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? And he quotes me on the point. Here’s a link to the article. And here is Murat Nemet-Nejat’s response to this:

Translation has always been crucial in the development of a country’s literature, in France, in England, in Germany, until recently in The United States, to name just a few, at least in the West. I disagree with you on one point. In the last fifteen years or so, American poets, particularly those considered avant-garde have shown an amazing lack of interest in, creative involvement with the poetry of other languages. The last American examples of such a non-American focused interest would be poets of earlier generations, for instance, Rexroth’s Chinese translations, Jerry Rothenberg’s anthology The Technicians of the Sacred, original New York School poets’s interest in French poetry and Dante, Zukofsky’s interest in Catullus, etc,. and in its early years Language School poets’ interest in European thinkers. The best example of the change is, in my view, Ron Silliman’s blog, which, to the best of my knowledge, had never had a serious discussion of a non-American poet, without even acknowledging the lack of it. I agree with you that in the last five or six years a change has begun to occur among younger American poets. Whether this is due to globalism or a realization of the sterility of the previous attitudes, I can not tell.