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A conversation with translator Alice-Catherine Jennings

Transom:
Is it possible for the original text to be reborn through the translator?

Jennings:
Rebirth for me seems to indicate that something was first dead. As I tend to translate works by contemporary authors, I think of the poems I translate as very much alive. However, it is true that there are many poems that have lain dormant and not read for long stretches of time. With these “dormant” poems, a translator can revive them and present them to a new readership.

I prefer to think of translation as a “reincarnation” versus a “rebirth” of the original text. If the translator is successful, the soul of the poem enters into and continues in the new language, or flesh.

Transom:
We’re struck by the elegaic tone of this poem. Translation inevitably involves loss. But must these losses be mourned?

Jennings:
According to the German poet Karl Schlegel, “What is lost in the good or excellent translation is precisely the best.”