11 abr. 2006

What's great about that Ashbery translation is that it's both Baudelaire and Ashbery. It really does get at a particularly Baudelairean tone, as Henry eloquently explain in a comment below. Yet the poem can appear side by side with other JA poems and not be out of place. It's located at the exact point where the two styles meet. We might hypothesize what this point would look like before hand, but it's even better to have it. [Like O'Hara channeling Mayakovsky in a "A True Account of Talking to the Sun,"or Rilke in "Aus Einem April."] Schuyler's translation of a Dante sestina. Maybe Celan translating Dickinson would provide a similar pleasure (I haven't read his translations: I need someone to translate them back to English for me.) Pound and Li Po. Richard Howard doesn't do it for me. He is a poet, he is a fine translator of Roland Barthes, but I don't see that magical conjunction to two styles. It's a pretty rare event, in my view. That is, many translations are praised and read with profit, but when you really ask whether it is "poetry in English," you usually have to say no. Even Koch's Roussel doesn't do it for me. Lowell's imitations would be a good example if I liked Lowell. Since I don't appreciate his style, I can't appreciate its conjunction with the work of another poet either.

2 comentarios:

Matthew W. Schmeer dijo...

At a translator's sympoisum I attended as an interested observer, I once told Richard Howard--to his face--that I could careless about striving for linguistic perfection in poetry translations from his beloved French because "I don't know French from a monkey's ass."

Howard was raised in a French-speaking household and has spoken the language since childood. He is also an elitest to the uncouth degree, and that alone makes my skin crawl. He had a way of looking down his nose at me through those thick-framed glasses with his eyebrows in a furrowed frown that just made me want to say outrageous things to see if I could provoke him.

I did. It totally threw him off his game for the rest of the session he was chairing.

I know--not a productive comment, but there it is.

Jonathan dijo...

That anecdote makes you look worse than Howard himself, elitist or not. If there's anything worse than an elitist, it's an anti-elitist, I always say.

The problem with Howard is not that he's elitist, but that he's a mediocre poet and translator of poetry. Of course, his translations of Barthes alone earn him some credit in my book.