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