13 jun. 2012

Resonance in Translation

You might want to think about translation as the place where two poetic traditions meet up. So to translate a certain line by a Spanish poet I remembered Kerouac's line "in the immemorial light of my dreams." The line in Spanish was "en los ojos del sueño inmemorable." I came up with a variation, "in the immemorial eyes of a dream." I am keeping all the content words but altering their order. When I see the word "coro" in Spanish I might think of "Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sing" or "Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn" or "a chorus of smiles, a winter morning." (That's Shakespeare, Keats, Ashbery, if you are keeping score at home.) For "convivir" I used "company," thinking of Creeley's use of that word. If I see the word "morada" (dwelling place) I might think of "Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, / And the round ocean and the living air, / And the blue sky" (Wordsworth).

Now this could be overdone, if the echoes are too blatant or shoe-horned in. One translator put in the phrase "from sea to shining sea" into a poem in a very arbitrary way, where nothing in the original seemed to give support to that. What I am suggesting is that the translator have ears pricked for a certain resonance in the poetic language of the target language, and not only to the contemporary spoken language or the language of contemporary poetry at its flattest.

It would follow that the most accomplished translator would have a certain level of poetic culture in her own medium of translation, as well as in the source language.