Author photo by Peter's son, Walter Bakowski

Saturday, February 4, 2012

An open letter to translators

I try and write as clearly as possible. I do my best to refrain from inserting fog, cloudiness, confusion in any poem I write. I try to use ordinary language to say extraordinary things.

I've chosen the words I've chosen and no other words as each word has a specific sound and power.

Given the above, my expectation of the translator is to reveal and state in their language what I reveal and state in my language. My expectation is a mirror of the poem in the translator's language.

What I DON'T want is dilution, erosion, corruption, renovation of the poem.

Translation involves care and faithfulness by the translator. It involves trust by the person being translated. It is an honour to be translated. Translating is a labour of love.

Translation of poetry opens doors, shows the reader what is observed, what is thought important, what is thought worthy of a poem.

I prefer

For Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer
chess to boxing,
solitude to gossiping,
the graves of the elderly to those of the young.

I prefer
the bullied to the bullying,
wands to truncheons,
reason to patriotism.

I prefer
strolling to fleeing,
buoyancy to gravity,
misplacing my glasses to misplacing my trust.

I prefer
self-improvement to nostalgia,
galaxies to ruts.

I prefer
the seeker to the know-it-all,
luck to luxuries,
the blushing to the poker-faced.

I prefer
winters that are external,
interruptions to loneliness,
when life
increases in value.

from "Days That We Couldn't Rehearse" (Hale & Iremonger)