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Translations and Adaptations

For our translation feature, we bring you a selection of new poems that are in dialogue with Francesco Petrarch’s Rime 190 (“Una candida cerva”) and its most famous English “translation,” Sir Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt.” Working in fourteenth-century Italy, Petrarch perfected (as much as one can “perfect”) the sonnet form, which was to become one of the backbones of Anglophone poetry. Published in 1557, Wyatt’s famous appropriation of Rime 190 is a brilliant poem in its own right, even if it’s not what foreign language teachers would call a faithful translation.

Wyatt’s poem is at the headwaters of the long history of Anglophone sonnets. In it, he domesticates the foreign poem, rendering Petrarch’s idealized love poem into a world-weary, anti-courtly, fallen love poem. For this feature, we invited submissions that explore the space that such adaptations open up. Our contributors engage with the contradictory impulses behind all translation projects: honoring the original while creating something new.

Each of the exciting new poems in this feature – formally conscious, yet often veering toward adaptation, bastardization, and appropriation – makes us rethink the possibilities of “translation.” We admire how these poems
including a sonnetish emotional call-back to Wyatt, a free verse update of some of Petrarchs key images, a prose concretization of what was allegorical in the Petrarch, and a fairly straightforward version of a Rilke sonnetaddress the concerns of the original texts while making room for innovation and further inquiry. They continue the evolution of translation, the hunt for a better net to hold the wind.