A Poetics of Translation
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Ottawa Press
Series: Perspectives on Translation
Poetic discourse has always held a singular fascination for translation theorists: many of the mechanisms, contradictions and aporia of translation surface in a particularly acute way when the text involved is a poem. Poetry is a non-instrumental use of language, one that uses “the...
The author wishes to thank the following rights holders (authors, publishers, literary executors) for permission to reproduce the materials quoted in these essays. Simon Armitage, “Jupiter and Europa,” from After Ovid. Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd...
ONE: Said Writer to Reader
What I stress in this essay, and indeed throughout this entire collection of essays, is the newness of poetry, its inaugurality. The vocation of the poem is to break out of the already-said, to force its way through the wall of language and to put us into more or less unmediated contact with...
TWO: Inventing the Past: Remarks On the Re-enactment of Medieval Poetry
No matter how qualified she may be from the philological standpoint, the translator of medieval poetry is immediately confronted with a sense of her own diachronic incompetence: she is incapable of “getting inside the poem” the way a contemporary would have done, for she is...
THREE: The Valency of Poetic Imagery
Poems are essentially performative. Through their imagery, prosody, diction, and discursive tensions, they enact what they have to say: sound play, textures, rhythms, and images all contribute to making sense and generating insight.Valency, as I define it, is a measure of this performativity, a measure of the extent...
FOUR: Remarks on the Valency of Intertextuality
From the translation-theoretical standpoint, intertextuality might be termed “the already-said of the already-said”: if the source-text itself has, for most translators, the reassuring status of the toujours-déjà-là, its intertextual resonances hark back to even more remote (and possibly more “authoritative”) antecedents...
FIVE: The Poem as Unit of Invention: Deriving Poetry in English from Apollinaire and Charles d’Orléans
My point of departure is the notion of “unit of translation,” and the assertion that the entire poem must constitute the unit to be mapped over from source- to target-system—an assertion which can be understood in at least two, mutually compatible ways, depending on the...
SIX: The Poetically Viable Translation: Englishing Saint-John Perse
A poem in language A can always be reworded, one way or another, in language B.The result will not necessarily be poetry. Chances are it will reflect some generally retrograde consensus as to what “poetry” is supposed to sound like. Chances are it will read like any other translation done around the same time into the same target language—and sound...
SEVEN: Visibility and Viability: The Eye on Its Object
Like fidelity (the forbear with which it entertains an antagonistic, quasi-Oedipal relationship), visibility is a pre-scientific notion—a warm and fuzzy ideologeme that has never been subjected to any sort of rigorous scrutiny. It covers a wide spectrum of approaches, practices, and expectations that meld into one another through the inevitable...
EIGHT: Authorship, Ownership, Translatorship
A view that has currency in some quarters is that translators have a legitimate claim to authorship of the target texts they turn out.The handmaidenly ethos that used to be so prevalent in translation studies has given way to stentorian claims for ownership. Where the Vestal once...
NINE: Poetry As Knowing
Like the pure sciences, poetry is first and foremost a cognitive undertaking, one of the most stringent modes of knowing that exist. Everything about it is shaped by the search for insight, or even truth. And the truth of a poem is, of course, something that goes far beyond paraphrasable propositional content: truth in poetry would seem to be...
The trouble with knowing is that it can degenerate into knowingness, dry up and lose touch with the world. Language, too, desiccates as it hardens into the already-said.The fundamental calling of language is to give us a handle on the world, but what language gains in its ability...
ANNEX: Original and Derived Poems, Translations and Working Translations