Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgements

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pp. xi-xiv

I would like to thank lecturers and students at Stendhal University, Grenoble, and the Université de Rouen for their feedback when I was putting this book together. Thanks are also due to friends and family. My teacher Mr. Watson at Hawick High School did much to open up poems to me, while Henri Meschonnic, the great Parisian translator-poet, helped convince me of the importance of poetics for understanding the act of translating....

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Introduction

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pp. 1-22

Since Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation came out in 2003, the familiar phrase that gave the film its title has been used in common speech and in media headlines with a wide variety of meanings, referring to cultural misunderstandings and incomprehension between generations and between genders. In poetics the concept of loss in translation has a much more refined meaning, even if we do not always specify what is actually lost. For what is lost when a poem is translated? Is it the beauty of Hindi or Spanish that fails to...

Part 1: Versification

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Chapter 1: Form

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pp. 25-48

Forgue’s Dickinson, Darras’s Whitman, and Gâcon’s Sidney have demonstrated the complexities of translating verse without making the difficult seem like the impossible. Considering where a talented translator such as Forgue stumbles should serve to alert us to the pitfalls awaiting the translator. As we saw in the translations of Dickinson, Sidney, and Whitman, questions that first appeared to be formal turned out to have a bearing on the poem’s mode of...

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Chapter 2: Comparative Versification

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pp. 49-64

If the poem is expressive, then it owes that expressivity in part to the means furnished by the language system: English, French, German, Czech, Hindi, Finnish, and so on. The linguistic matter must be forged into a meaningful movement and an organized whole by any given poet. The organized patterning of syllables and of accentuation, intonation, syntax, and the very cadence with which the voice moves all differ from language to language. Being forced to discard the movement of one language and to adopt a foreign...

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Chapter 3: Meter and Language

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pp. 65-124

From the point of view of the poet and the poetry lover, the unforgivable error of specialists of metrics and versification has always been that they offer only a formal understanding of sound. As all poets and readers know, poems are meaningful. The poetry in poems can never be reduced to form, pure or otherwise. Even nonsense poems such as Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, are humorous largely...

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Chapter 4: Beyond Metrics

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pp. 125-146

"Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, / The sound must seem an Echo of the sense,” argued Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism (Pope 2005: pt. 2, lines 364–65). The elegance of Pope’s phrasing is such that the phrase was to echo through the generations to become a fixed part of stylistic dogma. But what did Pope mean? Is form to be considered an afterthought of meaning—a support, a crutch? Does poetry owe its expressive force to its vocalic and consonant echoing, to assonance, rhyme, and alliteration? Does...

Part 2: Form and Meaning in Poetry Translation

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Chapter 5: Theorizing the Translation of Poetry

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pp. 149-152

Even from the page, some poems speak to us. We hear a voice that manifests itself in the movement and organization of its words, in the phrases that form and break off, in the distribution of accents, and in the rhymes, the alliteration, and the assonance that form sonorous patterns. This voice is meaningful, of course, but it takes form in the dynamic interaction of the formal elements of which it is composed.

As we have already seen, however, the poem in translation all too often does not speak to us; it mumbles faintly, and...

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Chapter 6: Translating the Sign or the Poem?

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pp. 153-166

As Henri Meschonnic (1972, 1999) argues, thinking within the limits of traditional theories of translation renders us insensitive to that which is specifically poetic. It forces us to consider poetry in terms of the linguistic sign that constitutes the union of two separate things, the signifier and the signified (form and meaning), whereas the poem testifies to an inseparable union of the two. While it is true that the form and the content are inseparable for the most part, our attempts to understand their essential unity have invariably...

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Chapter 7: Form and Translation

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pp. 167-182

Clarifying exactly what we mean when we talk about translating form should allow us to avoid those trite paradoxes, such as “formless form” and “structure without form,” that some literary critics tend to find deliciously elusive. On closer inspection, such phrases inevitably turn out to be dead ends, not perspectives. They will not help us conceptualize the difficulties of reconstructing a poem in a foreign language. The redefinition of form as having four components (page 161) allows us to consider a poem as either partly...

Part 3: Case Studies

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Chapter 8: Baudelaires

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pp. 185-242

Few poets can claim to be so prolific in their influence, if not in their production, as Charles Baudelaire. He produced only one major book of verse, and his book of poems in prose was not published in its complete form until after his death. The other work, however fascinating, remains secondary in his oeuvre. The reaction to Baudelaire’s writings was a strong one, though, and the great poets and novelists of his day were not grudging in their praise for...

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Chapter 9: French and German Emily Dickinsons

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pp. 243-290

Great poets like Shakespeare and Baudelaire make themselves heard in the end, we like to believe, though they do not always fit comfortably into the established tastes of their times and are not necessarily supported and promoted by those in power in the state or the publishing industry. Often we see their value more clearly in hindsight. To us Shakespeare towers above his contemporaries, although he himself held those contemporary poets in great esteem and spoke of them highly. Who remembers George Chapman, the...

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Chapter 10: A Final Word

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pp. 291-296

Like translating itself, reading this study of voice and versification may well have proven to be hard work. My intention from the beginning to the end, and at every step along the way, was to insist that however hard it proves, translating poems is possible. Part of my task involved demonstrating that theories and approaches to translation often distort this fact. What translators do, theory often refuses to acknowledge, and when it comes to metrics and versification, theories often get in the way rather than opening up the way to creative...

Glossary

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pp. 297-320

Bibliography

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pp. 321-335

Back Cover

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