Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Pia Tafdrup: Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 8


To leave one’s trace in language is to make use of what renders one different from others. Poetry is born by discovering its own figure. In the same way that pollen has a pattern of its own, or a finger leaves its specific imprint. Each poem is neither more nor less than an isolated phenomenon.


Originality is a danger that should not be avoided. Originality means that one is authentic, distinctive and completely oneself. Originality is not a guarantee of quality. But the courage to go one’s own way is an essential condition for growth.


It is self-evident that, in a sense, poetry is untranslatable. While music, dance and pictorial art can be transported across borders, poetry is subject to different conditions. Poetry is also in a different position from the other literary genres, which can usually be translated into other languages without too much damage. But even though language most frequently attains its most extreme sensitivity and refinement of structure in poetry, one should aim not for real translations, but for re-creations.

If poetry is to be presented to a foreign public, it must of course be defensible in semantic terms. This can usually be managed, but it must also be poetry that has a strength of sound and expression in the other language – and that may prove to be more problematic. Good poems can turn out awkwardly in a foreign language, while less successful poems sometimes gain in strength. A volume of selected poems in the original language will therefore not always be identical with a selection that has been translated into another language.

So re-creation is possible, but these are different poems, and they remain so. The ideal solution would be for the reader of the foreign language to be dissatisfied with this echo of the real thing, and instead to learn the poet’s language so as to be able to read his work in the original.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 1
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 2
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 3
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 4
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 5
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 6
Over the Water I Walk (IV) - 7

Note: the posts with the translated text of Chapters I, II and III can be accessed here, here, and here.

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