Translating poetry is building bridges between languages, transferring Pain and Joy from one culture to another. Humor, irony, dead seriousness, geography, distance, time, and physical surroundings are all elements that have to be taken into account.
In large areas of the US, electricity travels through live wires strung over mountains, along highways, through deserts. A totally different situation - and thus the possibility of different story - exists where the cables are buried in the ground. “Electricity is just lightning pretending to be permanent,” says Simon a character in Sherman Alexie’s short story ‘Special Delivery’. Of course also in big cities there can be electricity cuts. Yet it feels different when on a cold winter night, listening to the New Years Concert transmission from Vienna on PBS while the storm rages outside, the music comes and goes, the image on TV is unclear, grey noise rules. Yet it is in the fading and stuttering of the music and the unclarity and uncertainty of the screen that I could feel the magic beauty of that impermanence of electricity. I take my precautions though, I keep the laptop charged… and read poetry by candlelight. So the physical experience gave me a chance to really understand Alexie's line. That all is part of translating poetry.
Clowns from Amsterdam
7 years ago