Monday, March 27, 2006

"...Translating a Poem From One Language to Another is Impossible, But Necessary..." : Ed Hirsch

The Washington Post columnist & author of "How to Read a Poem (and Fall in Love With Poetry)", Ed Hirsch, makes some other interesting comments:

Neither the poet nor the reader necessarily "begins with a deep interest in language, although the more you read poetry, the more sensitive you become to the materiality of language. Language is the medium of the arts. In reading poetry, you must understand that the way it is said is inseparable from what is being said."

"First of all, translating a poem from one language to another is impossible, but necessary. You have to be sensitive to the original language and to make the poem in the new language. Translating word for word does not work. A poem written in another language is remade into a creative entity in English."

Hirsch believes "poetry ought to be as accessible to as wide an audience as possible, and poetry can find a larger audience — but it's crucial that you don't change the essential nature of poetry. The readers have to know how to go about thinking about poetry; they want a way in. Poetry is an art form and the deepest reading of it is sensitive to the nuances of the art."

"My central impulse is to say poetry belongs to everyone. It's not just for the elite. The art of poetry is more available than you think. Poets are not entirely born with a gift from the Gods. There is a lot that can be learned about the art."

"Poets are not necessarily the best interpreters of their own work. People who are not poets who understand the rhythms of language can do a good public reading of poetry. I like to read my own poems aloud and I have a sense of how to make them available to listeners. But I hope the dramatic impact of the poem lives in the words. I don't think I'm a necessary presence to bring them alive."

Read the full article HERE.


Ernesto said...

I am teaching my literary theory course this term on the question of translation vis à vis Derrida and Benjamin, so I found your post very interesting.


Nick said...

Since language & culture are so closely intertwined, I must strongly agree with the first part of Hirsch's compound sentence. The only person who could truly translate from one language to another & from one culture to another would have to be equally fluent & versed in both languages and in both cultures. This in my opinion (as sociologist) is highly improbable. And even if it were possible the translator would inevitably tinge the translation of said work with their particular mindset. I am fluent in three languages and prefer to read (if possible) poetry in its original linguistic context. Might just be me though!

Nick said...
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English Professor said...

I used to read a Gwendolyn Brooks poem to my students each semester; imagine my mortification when I heard an old recording of her reciting it--with a completely different cadence and emphasis. Her way of course made total sense once I heard it, and it's how I would recite it now.