The Platonic GOOD in the art of literature
is imitation or tradition, or innovation that ultimately
is also a return. Is there a great painter
without a parent?
Scholars (I figure here) stick to annotated plagiarism,
a code word for theft.
Among translators we have beautiful robbers.
Some dissemble. You might call our work fiction.
Some invent or combine or omit or improve
as behave like the two Roberts—Lowell and Bly. It’s nice
to have freedom declared as the Roberts do.
Translators are hardcore,
and unlike good literary confidence men, their role
is to get caught.
Yet don’t worry.
The translation police will not arrest you and pull out
The best among us, Homer and the Bible,
wear masks and drift on through centuries.
Translation is an instant of HEAVEN.
The poet in HEAT,
with skills and preparation for walking in paradise,
remakes the earth.
A translation aspires to INDEPENDENCE,
yet even when apparently achieved, the dream is false.
Even original work is not independent nor wholly original.
When handsomely reborn into existence
through the wordgiving voice of the translator,
is translation a form different from other literature?
Yes, but only by affirmation of a superficial convention
based on poor eyesight
that establishes feudal hierarchies of value
between overlord originals and vassal translations.
The secular creation of a text is only the last in a string
of Buddhist rebirths and transformations.
It started long ago, or rather, like time, has no beginning.
So there is no original.
A translation is the first acknowledgment of a string
of original rebirths.
While all literature is translation from a tradition,
all translation is a unique instant of that tradition
and therefore original.
Octavio Paz declares: Every text is unique
and is at the same time a translation of another text.
The formula for Original and Translation is O = T = O = T
from now to eternity.
This formula of infinite exchange offers reader and critic
licentious innovation to praise or abuse,
and also to take over the text with impunity.
If you hover between O and T and find no word to describe
you may be wise as well as wordless.
To run out of words is illumination
and is a proper lexical starvation for diplomat, philosopher,
This empowering word tastes of honey or swells with venom,
and you are praised as part of the great tradition
or put in your place as a copycat.
So whether one commends the new version
as an independent original
born outside the universe
or reviles it as an ignoble translation weary of time,
its perfect epithet is imitation.
Lastly, a redemptive translator is an INTERPRETER
who retells with imagination.
War year 1942, lonely and let down,
sitting on his Casablanca bar stool,
tough guy Humphrey Bogart looks to Sam, his song INTERPRETER,
Bogart wants earlier kisses and love back again
through interpretive song.
Re, as in do re mi, is the prefix note in revelation
and means again as in “do it again,”
which is the translator’s re-creative duty.
Lonely Bogie remembers, feels old times, and says to Satch,
his soulful translator of past sighs and glory:
Play it again, Sam.