12/11/2008

To understand Creeley, say, you would have to know about Williams, Pound, Duncan, Olson, Levertov. Also Ginsberg and O'Hara and Lowell--representing directions he didn't take. Maybe also Thomas Hardy and some of Creeley's other favorite British poets. Some medieval lyrics. The understanding of Creeley within his context and tradition entails a very dense and nuanced positioning.

It strikes me (and this is not a new observation with me) that we tend to read "foreign" poets in a quite different way. We never see them against the backdrop of their mediocre contemporaries who never get translated. Usually it is only one or two poets from any given country who are at all known at any given time, so there is rarely a sense of Creeley's "company," the social network of poets. The poet translated stands pretty much alone. Things are a little better with French poetry, where most readers who know Bonnefoy would also know Baudelaire or Reverdy. There is a long tradition of contact between the two linguistic traditions. Even though I have spent hours reading French poetry of the past I couldn't name ten living French poets, so in a sense I am not even close to having that sort of "thick" knowledge. This is qualitatively quite different from knowing the work of dozens of contemporary poets in Spain and the US, plus a healthy number of Latin Americans.

3 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

Have you read Jacques Réda? He's the guy I keep coming back to (and whose work I've translated; I even got an NEA to work on the project a few years ago).

Bob dijo...

Creeley LOVED Hardy.

Jonathan dijo...

I know. I was thinking of a particular sequence of poems where Creeley riffs off Hardy. I've always liked Hardy myself, as novelist and poet.