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Manoa 12.1 (2000) 133-137

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And Then the Whole Was Flooded with Light: Hiroya Takagai Translated

Eric Selland

Translating Asian Poetry: A Symposium

Art be the silence of the world.

Maurice Blanchot

The pure work implies the disappearance of the poet as speaker, yielding his initiative to words.

Stephane Mallarmé

Word becomes thing, and thing becomes word. This is the central characteristic of poetry today, and it is the most basic function of language.

Hiroya Takagai

We begin with Mallarmé, with the originary silence behind language--the emptiness of the word; the abyss of meaning. Language, or writing, as an open wound. It is not possible to speak of translation outside the context of poetics. It must confront the poetics of the original, the text under examination (or exhumation). Even translation itself is a poetics.

There is a paradox at work that involves entering into a total intimacy with the poem, entering into its space, and yet encountering an otherness that brings meaning into question; this comes from the fact that the original word and its associations must be broken open, initially lost, and then recreated in a different form. Many meanings and associations present in [End Page 133] languages that differ radically from each other simply cannot be brought across. They can be explained, but then the poetry is lost.

Being absorbed in the work is like being absorbed into a painting, or a piece of music. This comes out of the experience of poetry itself and its making, which is perhaps itself a form of translation. The poem is like a form of prayer or meditation, in which God is experienced as being at once totally other and yet more inward than inward.

The sound out of silence of language speaking.
The poem speaks to me out of this silence.


The buoyant particles of grass separate, and connect

Packets of white flesh

[Binding the hems, the flames of the <hidden interiors> join, trembling

(They call)

Binding, the hems are shaken and returned to the <exterior>)

Of course, one could make the decision to decontextualize the poem from its original root for one's own poetic purposes, but in doing so one must be completely conscious of what is happening in language and the poem. To produce a translation that may be accurate according to the dictionary, but bland and distant from the spirit of the poem because one has either ignored or misunderstood the author's poetics is not at all the same thing as performing a translation from the viewpoint of a radical poetics or creating a version. There is no correct or incorrect way of translating a poem. Translation is not a means of testing foreign-language skills. Translation is a total engagement with language and identity. It is an important and essential part of the production of literature.

Who speaks in the poem, in Hiroya Takagai's poem? Language speaks.

If only the poem dwells, it dwells in this suspension, almost in levitation in a space it does not create but that it nonetheless makes come, that it calls to come."--Marc Froment-Meurice, That Is to Say: Heidegger's Poetics

Tilting, there is a young branch,

And there are stems, [End Page 134]

(The child    which becomes a circle, and feeds on its own parent)

[Tree which becomes disentangled]

(A <collar> is dropped from the hem's tip)

Dark ring

Earth's ear breaks open

These poems from Rush Mats present a series of discrete signs that form a complex of archetypes--fundamental blocks representing bits and pieces of memory, sense experience, the actual and the dreamed--that themselves form a kind of body or "inner weave," as well as an invisible bridge between the personal and the communal.

The importance of the function of empty space should not be ignored here. Behind each of these sparse sections of text--and behind each line and each word--there is a gap where emptiness and silence lie still in their pure echo. This emptiness, this silence, is the sound of memory...


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