Wednesday, September 19, 2007

miscellaneous links

I will park a few interesting items here . . .

[this is a blog post-in-progress]

1) Windows & Mirrors . . . (an interview): Charles Bernstein in a Bengali poetry context.

2) Essay by Dick Davis -- On Not Translating Hafez. Here is his final observation:
Certain poets are held to be untranslatable, or virtually so, and often they are thought of as those that most intimately express the poetic soul of their people: in Russian there is Pushkin; in German, Goethe; in Persian, Hafez. The fact that it is often precisely the poets who seem to sum up a poetry’s idiosyncratic potential and identity who are those whose works are most resistant to translation can give rise to a kind of romantic, quasi-racial canonization of such poets, an implication that they cannot be translated because what they express draws so deeply on the culture’s specific ethnic soul that it is not communicable in any other terms. This is a variant of the sentimental “To understand, my friend, you have to be Persian/Jewish/Russian . . .” ploy. (Against this ethnic self-indulgence there is a lovely story of Franco Corelli asking Richard Tucker for tips on how to sing Puccini: “Well,” began Tucker, “You have to be Jewish. . . .”) But there is a simpler, more mechanical, less romantic, less racial, and, I believe, truer explanation for why these poets can seem to resist translation.
Such poets can be considered those for whom the local conventions of their poetry are so deeply embedded psychically that they seem to be second nature to them; in their hands the conventions no longer seem conventions but simply a truth of the language, or of the particular poet’s psyche as it functions within the language. Goethe has a remark somewhere that few people realize that a poet’s most felicitous effects are often embedded in the rules of language itself, and we can extend this observation to the conventions of poetry that grow up in a linguistic community. It is the poet able to realize and utilize such conventions most effectively who can seem the most inspired and gifted; what to others is learnt, and obviously so, seems to be what he has been given, his natural mental landscape, the ethos within which he luxuriates and flourishes. But because his poetry is by that fact an endlessly dense tissue of his language’s poetic conventions, he seems by virtue of his very skill to be monolingual, untransferable to a language and poetry which does not share such conventions. And this is why the poets who seem to develop a poetry’s capabilities most tellingly, who seem to their linguistic communities to be the most “poetic” of all, are often precisely those whom it is most difficult to bring over into another language. Certainly, in Persian literature, the example of Hafez, and of the numerous poor poet-translators who metaphorically lie bleeding at his feet, would seem to bear this out.
(from the New England Review)

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