12 ene. 2007

One of the most amazing facts about poetry as an art form is that it is written in numerous, mutually incomprehensible languages, and that its qualities are bound up with those specific linguistic forms. If you read a translation, which we all do of course, you are getting the special qualities of poetry written in English, plus a little bit the image-repertoire of another culture.

This multilinguism is a huge advantage, in terms of richness of possibilities for the art form, and a huge disadvantage because just learning one extra language requires a huge extra investment of time. Ars longa, vita breve and all that.

A woman became a foremost expert on Spanish film. She was a film scholar first and foremost, with fairly weak Spanish language ability, but this did not prevent her from becoming a respected person in this field. I could learn a lot about Mondrian without knowing any Dutch, or a Stravinsky expert without knowing Russian if I knew music, etc...