Is it possible for the original text to be reborn through the
The first two tasks of the translator are to assure that the
translation is accurate as to meaning, and that it is truly poetry in
the target language. Ideally, the translation must match the rhythmic,
emotional and aesthetic impact of the original. I often give readings
with my poets and know I have succeeded when my translation touches the
audience in the same way as the original (i.e. tears, laughter and the
inimitable awed silence). And let’s not forget the book sales.
One of the pieces in this selection
begins with the line, “The river carries you in its two languages.”
Thanks to translators like yourself, Coffinet’s poems now exist in
multiple languages. Do you believe in a linguistic “river” (or, what
Benjamin calls “pure language”) that accommodates all of these?
Since, to my knowledge, poetry exists in all languages, there is a
river runs through it. I work in only three languages, so I am by no
means an expert, but I assume all languages have similar mechanisms to
express poetic sentiments and concepts. And there are great
translations for all of them(?). In effect, this is a rather
theoretical concern, far removed from the practical problems of dealing
with the greater ambiguity of French, and the conversion of alexandrins
to iambic pentameter.