Monday, December 20, 2010

notes on translation -- and more on Merwin

W.S. Merwin:
interview :

In it he mentions the thrush that sings with every cell of its body – as if obsessed with the urge to create that song. Our talent as humans is not so much language, communication, but imagination. We can imagine a situation and feel the suffering, the joy, the pain, the excitement in it.

So, in The Laughing Thrush
the “tumbling upwards” (vs. downwards) and what the thrush is saying, or not, will happen because of this powerful urge.

As for the translation of the Lorca poem:
I feel he has found a simpler way to express what Lorca was implying. The literal Spanish says “cut down my shadow/ deliver me from the torment of bearing no fruit”.
But what does that mean for a dry Orange tree who sings?

Instead of saying “Day turns round and round me” Merwin choses, walks in circles around me which gives a feeling of being bound.

Instead of saying “Let me live unmirrored” Merwin choses, “I want to live without seeing myself. And then the dream of the ants and thistleburrs equally are distinct in the tree’s imagination, not someone else’s.



All morning with dry instruments
The field repeats the sound
Of rain
From memory
And in the wall
The dead increase their invisible honey
It is August
The flocks are beginning to form
I will take with me the emptiness of my hands
What you do not have you find everywhere

Merwin’s suspension of punctuation allows a special echo – and overtones
man-made instrument (farm implements, machinery) with the music of the field and rain
but dry instruments making the sound of “wet”
“from memory” as if the field has remembered what rain sounds like
What images does “invisible honey” evoke?
How do you understand the last line? What in the poem supports it?
Dry instruments… reeds, farm equipment, the music of bamboo pipes

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