Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk

By Susan Porterfield | Go to book overview

Note on Translating
Japanese Zen Poetry

In his Introduction to The Translations of Ezra Pound Hugh Kenner speaks of good translations as interchanges of voice and personality and claims, further, that the successful translator doesn't translate words (he) remains faithful to the original poet's sequence of images, to his rhythms or the effect produced by his rhythms, and to his tone. Kenner goes on to make one or two more interesting points: Insofar as he is faithful, (he) does homage to his predecessor's knowledge of his job, his success in securing from point to point the precise images and gestures to embody a vision which is neither his property nor that of the translator. Pedantry consists in supposing that the importance of a movement of thought or feeling lies in notation somebody else found for it. The Poundian homage consists in taking an earlier poet as guide to secret places of the imagination. This to my mind is an admirable description of what the very serious translator attempts, whatever the language of the original poetry.

In my view there is still another desideratum: the translator should be familiar, as much as possible, with the details -- objects, faces, landscapes -- found in the original poems. I once had the temerity to claim as much to the director of a "Translation Center" in the U.S., where young poets, very few of whom had little more than a postcard sense of Japan, were engaged in ambitious translation "projects" of that country's great poetry. The director expressed surprise at the severity of such a condition, which, were it imposed, would make translation of Japanese poetry the province of "fortunate travelers." But I would insist on the importance of such familiarity, without which translation is at best synthetic.

That the translator is likely to be most successful with the poetry of one with whom he feels some degree of spiritual kinship goes without saying, and may be as important in its way as some command at least -- even in the case of co-translation with a native speaker -- of the language from which he is translating. If our translations of Shinkichi Takahashi's poetry are effective, surely the fact that Takashi Ikemoto and I share with the poet a

-51-

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Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface x
  • Introduction 1
  • The American Scene Versus the International Scene 15
  • I. Lucien Stryk on Poems Ana Poetry 23
  • Making Poems 25
  • What? Why This. This Only 41
  • A World Language of Poetry? 48
  • Note on Translating Japanese Zen Poetry 51
  • Verse: Free and Otherwise 53
  • The Future of Poetry 55
  • Beyond Poetry 57
  • The Red Rug: An Introduction to Poetry 60
  • Lucien Stryk: An Interview 76
  • Ii. Lucien Stryk on Zen 97
  • Let the Spring Breeze Enter: the Quest of Zen 99
  • Beginnings, Ends 106
  • Zen Poetry 117
  • Painter and Poet 134
  • Shinkichi Takahashi: Contemporary Zen Poet 144
  • Death of a Zen Poet: Shinkichi Takahashi (1901-1987) 156
  • I Fear Nothing: A Note on the Zen Poetry of Death 166
  • Buddhism and Modern Man 176
  • Poetry and Zen 196
  • The Sound of Tearing/ the Destroyer of Books 211
  • Notes 215
  • Introduction to Encounter with Zen 217
  • Introduction to on Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho 223
  • Preface to Crow with No Mouth: Ikkyu 233
  • Introduction to the Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa 240
  • Modern Japanese Haiku 251
  • Encounter with Lucien Stryk 269
  • III - On the Poet 277
  • Lucien Sfryk's Poetry 279
  • Notes 291
  • Earning the Language: the Writing of Lucien Stryk 293
  • From "Zen: the Rocks of Sesshu" to "Triumph of the Sparrow 314
  • Notes 337
  • Translating Lucien Stryk 341
  • Iv Selected Poetry of Lucien Stryk 345
  • Books by Lucien Stryk 387
  • Works Cited 388
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