After I posted about poetry translation last week, Ben came by and left a comment. So off I went to look at his blog, the recently started Project Poesía, an Anglo-Catalán poetry project.
I started tinkering with one of the pieces he had there, making a translation based on La Barceloneta, an original by Alexandre Plana; Ben has now added my draft translation to his blog as a guest post. (You can also read the original and Ben’s translation)
I’ve always thought that you need to feel some empathy with a poem to make a good translation. But now I’m beginning to wonder what happens if you feel too much empathy.
I like the apparent simplicity of La Barceloneta in Catalán and I want in some way to claim it as my own. So instead of trying to get closer to the original – which is likely to prove tricky as I only have a superficial knowledge of the language – I have abandoned the source text and am now playing with my own translation and re-drafting it as if it were mine.
It’s still recognisably a derivative work, but it may yet be transformed into something else entirely.
(after Alexandre Plana)
White sands and a harbour; nearby,
the salt-eroded scent of stone darkens.
Balconies corrugate a hunkered trail of houses.
Stink of fish, of furled sails, of mildewed planks;
bright daubs of colour – green, blue, yellow –
of doors and of clothes strung out to dry.
Through colours and scents, this light
unmakes the world.