not my idea

I reckon I started writing poetry some fifty years ago.

Since then, there have been periods when ideas have flowed thick and fast. There have also been times when I have forgotten about poetry, perhaps for years on end.

And then there have been times when I have not forgotten about poetry, but it seems to have forgotten about me.
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Catalonia coastline
Catalonian coastline
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.
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drafts and re-drafts

scarlet seeds of iris foetidissima
all alike; all unique
Years ago, after talking to the Catalán poet Joan Margarit, I wrote down in my notebook:

Form, metre, rhyme etc. are superficial elements of a poem. What gets translated is something more essential.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry translation, and I’m trying to work out what that “more essential” something is.

It’s clear – to me at least – that the complexity of poetry, its inherent weaving of different linguistic techniques, makes it impossible to translate everything: the only way to get an exactly equivalent poem would be to repeat the original. (At which point, it is probably relevant to mention the Borges short story Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote.)
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