Thursday, June 30, 2011

Counterfeit lineages

I wrote a post about the aesthetics of homelessness, the avant-garde and the pesky immigrants.

here's how the post begins:

As I always say: the most famous definition of poetry in US culture is Robert Frost’s quip that poetry is what is lost in translation. (It’s so famous it’s even the title of a blockbuster movie, “Lost in Translation” – which notably is about “poetic effect,” not poetry proper, see my post about McQueen.) And almost as famous is his quip that writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net. The two are of course related: at the core is the idea of poetry as something disciplined and authentic, and that it must be protected against the fake, the lazy, the chaotic, the cheaters, the foreign.

Despite various changes, it seems translation still is kept at the margins of American poetry. Translation is inherently a challenge to the dominant idea of “lineage” (perhaps lineage is inherently “dominant”) in US poetry: poetry is authentic, to write real poetry you have to know the true version of US literary history. Poetry has to be defended against the fake, against kitsch (“hipster poetry” or “soft surrealism” or whatever). You have to have a “good ear” to write poetry – it must come to you naturally..."


Blogger John B-R said...

Dear Johannes (if I may)--

I have found your posts on the foregrounding of the translator really thoughtful and stimulating, and I have a question for you. I hope you don't mind my posting it here, but I don't know another way to reach you.

I was reading brandon Brown's The Persians yesterday. I happen to be in love with this kind of work, this kind of "othering", to use a word, that came up Sunday in conversation with Jerry Rothenberg.

Lying in bed after my Persians adventure, I thought: it would be great fun to compile an anthology of this type of thing. I began to run a list ...:

Brown's Aeschylos and Catullus

David Cameron's Baudelaire

Christian Hawkey's Trakl

Susan Landers' Dante

Tim Atkins' Petrarch and Horace

Bernadette Mayer's Catullus

Bruce Andrews' Dante

Steve McCaffery's Marx

Christopher Logue's Homer

This is just off the top of my head. I purposely left Zukofsky's Catullus off the list, and Pound's Propertius ... they're old news ... maybe Logue is old news too?

I don't know enough about the originals you translate to know whether your translations are also "violently" othered ... Now here's my question: assuming that you can see the *category* I'm proposing, who would *you* include in such a gathering?

Thanks, Johannes. If you are willing to reply, and if you feel that email would be a better venue that a comment not particularly relevant to this post, you can find me at j at johnbr dot com.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Thanks John, I'll post this on and then I'll post a response some time in the near future, OK?


4:44 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Thanks John, I'll post this on and then I'll post a response some time in the near future, OK?


4:45 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home