Memory of which remained very lively for Celan even after the friends had lost sight of each other for many years. For me, his work is that of both a witness and visionary, keeping the horrors of the past in mind while trying to construct a better future, by working on making language responsible, i. People translate Celan in profoundly different ways. Translation, in this sense, is transformation. How do you, Pierre Joris, transform Celan through your translations, and why do you choose to do so in as particular manner? Pierre — I do not choose a particular manner in which to transform Celan.
If I have one specific rule mind it is to stay as close as possible to the original, to remain as literal as possible in my translations of Paul Celan. Getting a free ride on the shoulders of a giant, so to say. A case of inverse alchemy: gold into lead. There is no free translation just as there is no free verse.
I started translating Celan in and have kept doing so ever since. At some level it has been apprentice work: as a young poet I made the decision to apprentice myself to the man I consider the greatest European poet of the second part of the 20 century. Having shortly before that date decided to become a poet writing in English, or rather American, this work was both a way of discovering how very complex poetry works and of learning how English works at a range of prosodic levels.
It also taught me something about the limits of English or of any language. And of course the English publisher, Carcanet, loved this as it thus had a de facto monopoly on Celan for the English-speaking world. She began to understand the importance of multiple translations, and after her death, her son Eric and Bertrand Badiou started to implement this strategy, which is bearing fruit now.
Multiple translations are not only synchronically important, but also historically: every generation has to re-translate the major poets from the past it needs to advance its own poetics. Interesting for example to compare Ezra Pound's early 20th Century troubadour translations with those of Paul Blackburn from the late 50s and 60s. They are both interesting, innovative translations that bring poems nearly year-old into both a contemporary language and poetics —and yet they are radically different from each other.
It was really high time for someone to undertake a translation that makes use of a way more contemporary sense of poetics; happily Chuck Stein has done just that and has meanwhile also finished the Iliad. In fact, let me suggest a way of thinking about poetry and translation that does not set, in the sense of congeal, these two in a fixed hierarchy based on notions of "Original" and "Imitation".
Doug — What is the special difficulty of translating Celan, the special reward? Nor is it the classical German literary language. Celan likes to create his own vocabulary, something done easily in German where you can construct new words from existing words or parts of words and come up with very new composites using for example prefixes or postfixes that normally wouldn't be found with the words in question. Doug — Now to Breathturn. By Celan wants to do something useful.
Why is he moving away from German lyricism? It distrusts beauty. It tries to be truthful…. So there is hope for a time to come in which an action such as fishing will be undertaken even if the shadows of the past can never — should never? The memory of the past is necessary to catch something valuable in the future, i. Is there a way to categorize him? A surrealist? How does Wordcaves tell us how he wants to be read, and defined? The problem, of course, is with the notion of function. Both of these linked positions view poetry teleologically, examining it from the perspective of what's perceived to be its final ends: entertainment or revolution.
But how does the radical, committed poet write lyric poetry if that poetry doesn't make things happen? What kinds of times are they, when A talk about trees is almost a crime Because it implies silence about so many horrors? But he also reminds us that silence is no option. Those born later will want to know why poets gave up. What Brecht is doing here - and what makes him into one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century - is working through his dilemma as a radical lyric poet in front of us.
He shows us the things that poets want to write about. And then he shows us how these human, natural, ordinary things are annihilated by Fascism. Lyricism vs. Classic Brechtian irony. Just as the dark times were beginning to dawn, in -- the time of Munich, cowardice and appeasement -- Louis MacNeice was writing a book called Modern Poetry.
Understandably, then, MacNeice valued poets who were engaged with the craziness of world and who had a sense of themselves as a part of a various, incorrigible world. At the same time, against the background of the Munich crisis and the collapse of Republican Spain, MacNeice was also writing Autumn Journal , a book-length poem that many regard as his masterpiece. Throughout the poem he darts from his own intimate, subjective experiences to headlines in newspapers announcing Hitler's triumphs.
The mundane, personal details of everyday life are juxtaposed to public events, the significance of which are of overwhelming political and historical consequence.
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Implicitly, he tells us that we cannot conceive of the intimate without the historical, that subjectivity is already implied in objective events, and vice versa. That is why true poets must be truthful'. And I think that it's this quality of truthfulness that makes Autumn Journal is such an unnerving, and engaging, read today.
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In Autumn Journal MacNeice is a true poet being truthful about the complexities of his times and, crucially, about himself. He warns us what it is like to live with the dread of impending cataclysm. MacNeice frets about his missing dog who, incidentally, turns up in the next line. He notes the weather as Hitler rants in the background.
And he mourns the felling of trees on Primrose Hill to make way for anti-aircraft guns. In April , Bertolt Brecht had sought refuge in Hollywood, an environment in which, unsurprisingly, he felt somewhat out of place. The ravages of the war in Europe and the seemingly unstoppable progress of Nazism left him severely depressed and pessimistic about the future. But Wordsworth's lyrics moved him.
The battle for Smolensk -- indeed, all battles against totalitarian, fascist regimes, be they fought with soldiers and ordnance or on a far more modest scale - can be seen as battles for lyric poetry. For the right to experience and express the delight we find in the ordinary world around us. Strange as it may seem to those of us fortunate to have lived our lives in peace, the right to joy is a potent threat to totalitarianism.
Indeed, for a brief period, art in general became an important weapon in the Cold War.
»It was dark, the moon was shining bright« – a German poem
Readers of Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak and Akhmatova, to name only the most famous, were able to grasp the misery and terror of living under totalitarianism - as well as the courageous resistance and resilience it provoked, and the magnificent poetry it inspired. So, if poetry truly makes nothing happen then why, we might well wonder, do authoritarian states go to such lengths to control it?
The CIA actively encouraged the translation of East European poetry into English as a very effective means of countering Stalinist propaganda. I'm not suggesting that the poets themselves were not worth translating - clearly they were -- nor that their translators knew how their work was being supported they didn't. The point is that the CIA recognised that the translation of poetry could be a political act with significant consequences.
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It's a commonplace to observe that all art goes through radical forms of development when it is exposed to something entirely new and unexpected. Think of the way that modernist painters - Picasso most famously - were challenged to produce daring new art as a result of their exposure to African masks. Poetry in English is no exception. Some of the greatest innovations in English poetry have occurred as a result of translation. From Chaucer's version of The Romance of the Rose , via Wyatt's introduction of the sonnet by translating Petrarch, Dryden and Pope's reclaiming of the Classics for their Augustan ends, to the influence of Chapman's Homer on John Keats, English poets have flourished in response to translations.
And, more recently, think of the impact of the Penguin New European Poets series on poetry today; how it made the great Eastern European poets into our contemporaries, as well as introducing us to the major poets of Latin America. What doesn't get translated and published is, of course, as fascinating as what does. But since that time - with the notable exception of Ezra Pound's Cathay -- it is striking how the poetry and cultures of non-European, and specifically, Islamic countries have been largely greeted with ignorance and smug indifference.
The results in this instance, though highly commendable, are as yet uneven, and the work often appears to be aimed at an audience interested in Arabic culture rather than in poetry, per se , though this does appear to be changing as standards are raised and more mainstream literary organisations, publishers and venues begin to take Arabic poetry seriously. Indeed, contemporary poets from the old Eastern Bloc countries are far better known in the UK than those from Western Europe. For which it appears we have the CIA to thank.
Though I can assure you that the Bush administration CIA has yet to release vast sums to be spent on translating poetry from Islamic countries.
In a Dark Time
But then the Soviet Union was a feared enemy that required undermining rather than conquering. When, in , I was the first writer sent to Palestine by the British Council, I decided that I was going to use my position in the British poetry establishment to encourage and promote the translation of Palestinian and Arabic poetry. I wanted people to recognise that the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in general, have an extraordinary rich and complex culture, culture that is most importantly expressed in their poetry since, in Islamic societies, poetry is regarded as the highest art form and is accorded great importance.
One is the absolute reverence accorded to language because of the centrality of the Koran.
Unlike the Bible which simply records the words of God, the Koran is God speaking to us in what is often described by native Arabic speakers as the most beautiful language ever written down. The other reason is that many of the peoples who became converted to Islam come from nomadic societies and for most of them, poetry is their only art form of significance.
In a nomadic society, everything has to be portable. Nomads often make beautifully elaborate carpets, fabrics, jewellery and pottery, but the art and architecture of western societies has no relevance for them. Instead, the means by which they express themselves, record their histories and articulate their identities is through poetry. They can't understand why anyone could possibly think that poetry could be irrelevant since, to them, poetry is de facto, the most important - and relevant - art form of their cultures. Translating poetry, especially if, like me, you don't speak the language of your poet, demands patience and humility.
What I've never wanted to produce are those show-off translations, so beloved of some of my colleagues, who use a distinguished poet's work to further their own careers and who have a cavalier attitude at best to the original poet' genius. But what interests me is putting the original poet first, not myself. Translation - other than by the Imperial method - is, as I suggested, the opposite of war. Good translations depend on the translator putting their talents as a poet at the service of another poet.
Breathturn Into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry by Paul Celan | Quarterly Conversation
The more open you are to the rich heritage of the poet you're translating, the better and more effective your translation will be as a new poem in English. Translation always involves the translator taking a position -- an aesthetic position and an ethical position. Published October 24th by Saxon Publishers first published June 26th More Details Original Title.
Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Out in the Dark , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. May 10, Val rated it really liked it. The notes accompanying the poems in this collection are very good and certainly explain the context. The poems themselves are a varied collection from very well known to lesser poets.
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