Academic journal article The Southern Review

Long Distance

Academic journal article The Southern Review

Long Distance

Article excerpt

To read a translated poem is to get one eyewitness account of an event (often unreliable, the judicial system reminds us). But with five witnesses, ten witnesses, the essential veracity of the original may assert itself.

In those horse latitudes between writing my own poems, I sometimes "translate" the already translated poems of others and produce what I hope are similar to Lowell's Imitations, or what Hugh Kenner in his introduction to The Translations of Ezra Pound calls "homage[s]," Pound's translations garnered from other translations, cribs, and commentaries. Thus are the two poems here.

Typically, with the original text before me and five, six, seven, or ten translations, I try to suss out the ur-poem, possibly making something fresh for myself and, perhaps, for others. For example, after listening to the music of Giacomo Leopardi's original version of "The Infinite," then reading numerous translations, I sought a more immediate demotic and introduced the sound of the wind, a "shoosh," hoping to see the image, line, and, consequently, the poem anew while still capturing the poet's voice and intent. Perhaps a fool's errand. …

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