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The Poem Behind the Poem: Translating Asian Poetry

Overview

"The translator must keep faith with the deeper need that poetry fulfills in our lives, [to] discover not what the poem says but what it does."—Tony Barnstone, in his essay "Poem Behind the Poem"

The translation of Asian poetry into Western languages has been one of the most important literary events over the past one hundred years. Readers have fallen in love with Asian poetry and writers have been greatly influenced by it.

What neither reader...

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Overview

"The translator must keep faith with the deeper need that poetry fulfills in our lives, [to] discover not what the poem says but what it does."—Tony Barnstone, in his essay "Poem Behind the Poem"

The translation of Asian poetry into Western languages has been one of the most important literary events over the past one hundred years. Readers have fallen in love with Asian poetry and writers have been greatly influenced by it.

What neither reader nor writer ever witness is the intense engagement behind the poem, how the translator must serve as both artist and alchemist, urging a poem to work and sing in a foreign language. Success is rare, and the practice of translation, as W.S. Merwin has written, is "plainly impossible and nevertheless indispensable."

This endlessly fascinating anthology—the first of its kind—gathers essays, poems-in-translation, and worksheets from twenty-one noted translators who discuss their aspirations, methods, and the forces of imagination necessary to bring a poem from one language into another. Languages discussed include Chinese (both ancient and modern), Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer, and Sanskrit.

"A truly apt translation of a poem may require an effort of imagination almost as great as the making of the original. The translator who wishes to enter the creative territory must make an intellectual and imaginative jump into the mind and world of the poet, and no dictionary will make this easier."—Gary Snyder on translating the Chinese poet Han-shan

Contributors include: Gary Snyder, Willis Barnstone, Jane Hirshfield, J.P. Seaton, John Balaban, Michelle Yeh, Arthur Sze, W.S. Merwin, and Sam Hamill.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592003
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2004
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
The poem behind the poem : literary translation as American poetry 1
Translating Vietnamese poetry 17
How I strayed into Asian poetry 28
Hunting nets and butterflies : ethnic minority songs from Southwest China 39
A poem should mean and be : remarks on the translation of Japanese poetry 55
The way of translation 62
Sustenance : a life in translation 76
from The world is large and full of noises : thoughts on translation 90
Entering the pale of literary translation 101
Midwifing the underpoem 113
Translating Korean poets 125
Tuning in to the poetry of U Sam Oeur 133
Preface to east window : the Asian translations 152
Some thoughts on the meaning of translation 163
Forms transformed : Japanese verse in English translation 175
Manuscript fragments and eco-guardians : the estate of Sanskrit poetry 189
Once more, on the empty mountain 207
And then the whole was flooded with light : Hiroya Takagai translated 221
Reflections on my translations of the T'ang poet Han-shan 233
Introduction to The silk dragon : translations from the Chinese 239
The Chinese poem : the visible and the invisible in Chinese poetry 251
About the contributing translators 265
About the editor 271
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