Never an exact copy a conversion is DIFFERENT.
In translation perfect mimesis is impossible.
But a fake or counterfeit of the original may be wonderful
and lack criminality, staying close and admitting
what it is: translation,
yet they call it worthless.
In many eyes any conversion is a museum reproduction
of a Cycladic statue.
But a mirror of ancient glory may be troublesome
since on each island are found anciently carved copies.
Even in the hands of a master—Chaucer or Ronsard,
a Cranshaw or a Yeats,
the deed of conversion must not be nakedly apparent,
for if exposed, the work will wear the scarlet T of translation.
A translation is a bastard child
forced to wear a scarlet T-cross around its neck
like a yellow star revealing a Jew’s flagrant origin.
The managers of Jesus use translation to dissemble
a rabbi’s Aramaic name and origin
in pursuit of the perfect forgery.
Hence, Yeshua ben Yosef is Jesus son of Joseph
and the charismatic’s cursed family is concealed.
But a counterfeit is also glorious. Is such a feat by Chaucer
or Picasso (nothing hidden) not sublime?
The fake passes in a new mother culture with a new name
and glows sinless as a native star.
So old art refreshes with unconcealed vitality.
A translation dwells in EXILE. It cannot return.
Beware of those who look for forgery. They are inquisitors,
not lovers of the word.
The translated poem is a poem in another tongue,
maybe different from anything ever sung before.
The Spanish mystical poet Fray Luis de León wrote:
Poems in translation should not seem foreign
but born and natural in it.
Yet why not some flagrant unnaturalness?
Why not shake up English poetry
with the sudden arrogant figure
of Vladmir Mayakovsky, standing tall in his coalminer's cap,
shouting his syllables out to the sky from the Brooklyn Bridge?
Why not the ghost of the “disappeared” Osip Mandelstamm
reading his alchemic lyrics about Stalin's mustache
or his exile poems from the snows and ice graves of Voronezh?
Lexical shock renews weary language bones.
It is good to drink Turkish coffee in the pampas of the
A translation is a FRIENDSHIP between two poets.
The mystical union between the two poets
demands love, art, and knowledge of a foreign word.
When one poet knows the other poet’s tongue, it is a fortune
not to be spurned.
If the poet is ignorant of the foreign word,
a friendly human dictionary enters as an intermediary.
Comes the native informant.
The poet reads a foreign brook conscientiously
through an informant’s eyes and ears.
The informant is a dictionary, not a poet,
and useful as a dictionary and risky as a poet.
It is happy when a poet can chat with a dead poet
in another tongue,
yet chatting in another tongue does not make you a poet
any more than spouting cockney like Keats makes you Keats
or memorizing Paradise Lost converts you into Milton.
Robert Lowell laments:
Poems prepared by a taxidermist are likely to be stuffed birds.
A translator—who is graced with foreign fluencies,
but alien to the hells and Edens of art—
has no seat in the troika sled of poet, translator, and reader.
A friendly translator sings.