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Creating vs. Translating Poetry

Creating poetry is very hard at its source, since it means sinking the arms of one’s rationality deep into the tangled, murky and sometimes stinging slough of one’s dreams and creative imagination, and dragging something out. But once one has put in one’s 10,000 hours of work on poetic form, grammar, logic, and rhetoric, shaping that something into words is not so hard.

In translating, on the other hand, the original grab is easier: someone else guides one’s arms and places one’s hands on the right beastie down there. But now the hard part starts: to somehow become the other poet’s voice, to replicate the verse form and twists of implication that are easy for him (or her) but that one must invent in oneself, as a dramatist invents a character.

By Frederick Turner

Professor, poet, lecturer, black belt, and more.

4 replies on “Creating vs. Translating Poetry”

Translating is like writing in a highly rule bound verse form. Your choices at a given point are much more limited than when you are fighting from scratch. Sometimes none of the choices look very good, and the most you can hope is that the best one will seem OK to the reasonably attentive reader.

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