Where do you believe your poem may fit within the long history of
translation that surrounds “Whoso List to Hunt”?
I see my poem is a very loose,
contemporary translation of “Whoso List to Hunt.” I was attempting to
address issues around the hunt for the unattainable, and the obsessive
cyclone of unrequited love which I saw in the original. However, unlike
the love of Wyatt’s time (can I call it courtly love if it was the
Tudor era?), I am dealing with “Friend with Benefits,” a present-day
construction that I don’t think existed in Petrarch or Wyatt’s time. I
aimed to capture the frustration of a failed ‘hunt’ for love as a
Canadian woman in her 20’s might experience it in the early 2000s.
Imagine a teacher of Italian reading
your poem and then going back to the original. What aspects of your
translation would most annoy that teacher? In other words, where and
why were you most deviant as a translator?
This is a very deviant translation. It
is a bad, bad boy. I did not follow the original word for word, and so
a speaker of Italian would probably not even recognize this as a true
translation of Petrarch’s original. Instead, I’m dealing with what I
see as analogous concepts about love and the Beloved.
Perhaps an Italian teacher would object to my crass title, which even I
cringe at, but which I’ve decided to keep at the editors’ encouragement!
A teacher might also object to the fact that I’ve unmasked Petrarch’s
Doe metaphor, and made the Doe a human character in my poem, which,
from reading your next question, was somewhat ambiguously translated. I
discuss below where I was trying to place the Doe/Beloved in my
version. Petrarch’s Doe belongs to the Caesar, and that is why it is
unattainable and that much more attractive. My Doe/Beloved belongs only
to himself, no higher power is keeping the Beloved from the speaker and
he is attractive because of how distant he is with the speaker. This
difference might also peeve a precise instructor.
And my worst insult? I made the speaker in my translation a woman and
the Beloved a man, which is the opposite of what Petrarch and Wyatt
did. I don’t think an Italian teacher would put up with my version of
We read your sonnet as a potentially
provocative rejoinder to Petrarch’s “Whoso List to Hunt,” in the sense
that the speaker appears to operate from the position of the “beloved.”
We are tempted to read this voice as more empowered than that of
Petrarch’s silent “deer” but lines like “I think you woke up and left”
make us question that supposition. What were the obsessions in Wyatt
and Petrarch that you were reacting to?
Although I wasn’t thinking specifically
about agency when I was writing, now that I look back at “What Makes
You Think You’ll Get It In,” it is full of issues of power.
Unfortunately, I can’t attribute as much power to the speaker as you
propose. I would say that the speaker is operating from the position of
the Unbeloved, which, as those of us who have been obsessed with
unrequited love know, is a very frustrating and powerless place from
which to operate.
I meant for the Hunter/ Unbeloved in this to be the speaker. The ‘you’
occupies the position of the Beloved, but the Beloved is also a kind of
hunter. The Beloved seeks physical union (sex) from the speaker.
Therein lies the ultimate insult. In the end, the Beloved is not even
interested enough to make the minimal effort required to obtain sex
from the speaker, even though the speaker is making herself available
to him. This is also the reason that I don’t see the speaker operating
in the position of the Beloved. The speaker is desired only physically,
and just barely, whereas the desire I read in Wyatt and Petrarch was
about more than the physical—it was about emotional and spiritual union
as well—which the speaker desires of the Beloved "you."
Dealing with this double-Hunter situation, in which both parties are
hunting for different things, and are both left unsatisfied, I was
hoping to have my poem resonate with the ideas that I read in Wyatt and
Petrarch: the bitter-sweetness of wanting what you can’t have, and yet
continuing to pursue what is, quite obviously to most spectators and
perhaps even the speaker, a self-destructive impulse. I think that
humans get addicted to the sweetness of that dull ache of impossible
desire, and I wrote this, in some ways, to acknowledge that we’ve been
torturing ourselves in this way for centuries, and that we will most
likely continue to do so for centuries to come.