A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

Excerpt

In the years since the Second World War the poetry reader in this country and in America has taken an unprecedented interest in the work of poets writing in languages with which he is either partially or totally unfamiliar, the so-called 'modern languages' of a Europe which, though occupying only a small portion of it, has culturally dominated the world. It is a peculiar phenomenon, not least insofar as poetry is generally, and surely rightly, considered as language at its most expressive, and therefore strictly untranslatable into any other tongue. Anyone with a smattering of a given language can see, usually at a glance, how much has been lost in bringing over -- the root meaning of the word 'translation' -- a poem from that language into English; one famous definition of poetry is that which gets lost in translation'. Yet the poetry reader derives a satisfaction from translated poetry that differs in degree rather than in kind from that which he is accustomed to feel when reading poetry in his own language; it is possible to argue that there is a substratum present in every poetic utterance which enables it to withstand and survive translation. The evidence for the latter position is surely quite as strong, indeed in some ways stronger, than it is for the former; the vast majority of poetry readers, after all, possess nothing like the amount of linguistic expertise which would enable them to read all the significant European poetry of the last hundred and fifty years or so in the five major and countless minor languages in which it was originally written. In practice even exceptional linguists are occasionally dependent on translated materials. It is not surprising that in recent years there should have been several attempts to show that . . .

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