Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bill Howe's Dickinson translations

It's been awhile since the S(W)OP partay, but I've been meaning to comment on Bill's Emily Dickinson translations... You all know I've been trying to figure out how to deal with this issue of violence that a poem (and poet) commits in its reconfiguration of materials taken from the world -- I think Chris was also talking about this in his presentation today, the question of what to filter out (the violence involved in choosing and/or rewriting history)... Anyway, after going to the translation lecture, I realized a lot of what I've been doing to "tribute" or "honor" the texts I'm rewriting is based on the same ethical dilemma many translators face. That is, while I'm not translating between languages, I do feel like I'm translating between texts. I suppose the only difference is that I often translate texts that are not (in my opinion) effectively communicating what they mean to communicate (or could communicate with a little tweaking :).

SO -- back to Bill. After the reading he talked about his rewriting of Dickinson's poems as translations "from English to English," at which point I was like "yes!" Then I started to think about how (or whether) Bill "honored" Dickinson's intent -- and I think I said this in class, but Bill's performance of the translations emphasized a lilting rhythm that echoed the iambic meter of Dickinson's poems. In other words, while Bill's translations weren't in iambic pentameter (I don't think), his reading of them emphasized a ghost of that meter. It was lovely. And I appreciated Bill's process more because it added that extra layer -- a conversation between the "new" and "old" texts.

No comments:

Post a Comment