Thursday, September 2, 2010

september 2 at Highlands: What Lies in the Envelope of a Poem: considerations of sound in translation of poetry

Bly's ramage, "The Slim Fir Seed" (from "Turkish Pears in August)
Wilbur's translation of Eliante (Misanthrope Acte II sc. 4)
Moore's translation of La Fontaine, La Cigale et la Fourmi, The Grasshopper and the Ant
Robert Lowell's translation of Baudelaire, Recueillement, "Meditation"
a composite translation of Rilke's " Archaischer Torso Apollos, (Archaic Torso of Apollo)
and reference to Caldwell's blog entry on Robot Rilke.

This talk keeps evolving. Maybe it will turn into a course called, "Under the skin of a poem" -- but however you look at it, poetry is both written, eye-guided word and performed with theatrical skills to render the music.
Poem as 2-D blue-print -- how to interpret white space, pauses, punctuation, speed of words, breath... like a recitative on one note.

But that's like reading the address label.
To: Reader
Where you're at now
in your head or space,
located loosely in some state, recognizable by some universal thread
pinned by the boundaries of experience, language, culture

and the reader sees:

From: Poet (with a name one can link to a nationality and research time period, biography)
Title (of poem)
Form (arrangement)
blueprint for reading (line breaks, stanza breaks, calligrammed message)
United assemblage of image, sound, word

OK. So the text just comes in Russian. Say, Eugene Onegin, and you can't decipher the letters and sounds, let alone explain any of the crafting, meaning. So, you turn to Nabokov and ask for help.
And you only know about this because an old friend says this is worth doing.
You already know a poem does constant trade-offs in translation, and the only saving grace is to see how a fellow-wordsmith can bring it to some enjoyable level.
Today, I presented a hefty dose of examples, concentrating on English/French, as those are my languages. The translators are respectable. But it was fun to point out where connotation lies beyond the mere word choice.

Background of Robert Bly's Ramage, "The Slim Fir Tree" --
Ramage, being flute-like bird song, (and I think of the fox flattering the crow -- "si votre ramage se rapporte a votre plumage, vous etes le phenix des hotes de ces bois!)

how in 8 lines, he is responding to energy of tiny forceful sounds.
"im": slim, nimble, simplicity, imperishable,impermanent (twice)

"in": reversed in dig ni ty. (dig in!) engine, inside, hint, even, during, kingdoms. (last word of the poem)

"er" is a "sort of being that cries out" : the pleasure of "pears" pushes into "imperishable" and perishable; bird, fir, impermanent,(twice) permanent, hermit, her, eternal,

ee: seeds; these, keep, even, eternal,

how "oven" oars to "storm" through long for.

How all is in salty --

the sibilance of plural: seeds, pears, oars, engines, eggs, oceans

shhh of "ocean"; vast desire in "perishable".

bird/pear (nimble, still)
oars (engines)/seed

See note #2 about putting the poem into French.

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