Hopeful Tussles: Martha Cooley on Poetry in Translation
Judging this year’s contest was exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure, given the number of highly worthy entrants—more than could be lauded with an honorable mention. Highlighting of a handful of additional titles thus seems entirely in order.
First, though, a few words about the act of translating poetry, and its ripple effects …
It takes time, struggle, and love to translate a poem. There’s no one way to do it; there are as many ways as there are poems. The act is an improvisation, a show of faith, a display of boldness. Two different poetic languages representing two different ways of experiencing the world: these might at first seem essentially incompatible, perhaps even warring—but they’re not. They’re really two lovers (seeking not the having-made- but the about-to-make-love), and their tussles are the stuff of hopefulness. We need more than ever that exuberance which the act of translating a poem embodies; it affirms our global human connectedness more than any political treaty possibly could.
So—this year’s judge offers her hosannas to the following recently translated books of poems, each deserving of wide readership (and each adding to human comity):
Manoel de Barros, Birds for a Demolition, trans. by Idra Novey (Carnegie Mellon University Press)
Aharon Shabtai, War & Love, Love & War, trans. by Peter Cole (New Directions)
Valerio Magrelli, Vanishing Points, trans. by Jamie McKendrick (Farrar Straus Giroux)
The Complete Psalms, trans. by Pamela Greenberg (Bloomsbury)
Guillevic, Geometries, Englished by Richard Sieburth (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Inner Sky (poems, notes, dreams), trans. by Damion Searls (Godine)