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Is a poem translatable?
Thread poster: Komeil Zamani Babgohari

Komeil Zamani Babgohari  Identity Verified
Iran
Local time: 20:33
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
Aug 16, 2010

translatibility in poem is of course time taking. it needs more attention.
since reading a rendered poem and look at the source we get it is not meaningfully rendered.
supposed we could render meaning, what is happened to the form?
form makes a text a poem. do we have to refuse the form when translating a poem or what??


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:03
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
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OF course!!! Aug 16, 2010

It just depends on the 2 languages (closely related, or far apart), the subject (universal or really personal), the audiance and the form and freedom.

Take "me" for instance, rather straight forwards actually..

Now if you have something more complicated, you might have trouble keeping the rythem, the form, the exact words, but is a poem not about feeling and emotions?
...
I guess with the right poem and the right translator you can translate any poem as good as you can translated any book...


Some might even turn out more brilliant in another language!

===
Ed


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Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:03
Spanish to English
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yes and no Aug 16, 2010

It takes a poet to translate a poem.

I believe that you then have two poems, which will inevitably work in different ways, because the languages work in different ways. The issues are very different to what you are faced with when translating other forms of literature, because in a poem the words are so essential, so intimately tied to their sound, melody and their meaning.

What prompted me to learn Spanish was coming across the work of Lorca when I was a teenager. Something that the translator had managed to convey struck me so deeply that I wanted to read the original for myself. I then chose Granada as my place of study. I owe that translator a lot in terms of my life's work. And of course, I owe Federico García Lorca even more.

So the answer is yes and no.

There are wonderful translations of poetry around, and they are mostly by poets who write terrific poetry in their own right. Think for instance of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf.


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Komeil Zamani Babgohari  Identity Verified
Iran
Local time: 20:33
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
words Aug 16, 2010

what happen to words then?
what happen to the poet when u do not observe the form?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Yes.... Aug 16, 2010

....if you are a poet.

Some good examples are the translations of Rabindranath Tagore's work by Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956. A quite interesting fact is that Jiménez did not speak Bengali, Tagore's mother tongue. Despite that, nobody disputes that the translations were remarkable (even if done through a third language).


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:03
English to Croatian
+ ...
Images and form synchronised. Aug 16, 2010

komeil zamani babgohari wrote:

translatibility in poem is of course time taking. it needs more attention.
since reading a rendered poem and look at the source we get it is not meaningfully rendered.
supposed we could render meaning, what is happened to the form?
form makes a text a poem. do we have to refuse the form when translating a poem or what??


In your translation, you must capture the poetic images accurately and then pack them in the correct form, style and tone.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:03
English to Croatian
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Music, rhythm Aug 16, 2010

komeil zamani babgohari wrote:

what happen to the poet when u do not observe the form?


I suppose you meant "poem", not "poet"

The form is a poem's rhythm. The bad form jeopardizes the rhythm, as if you had a beautiful song played by a very bad musician on a bad instrument.


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Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 13:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
It takes a poet to translate poetry Aug 16, 2010

Let the cobbler stick to his last.

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:03
German to English
Lost in translation Aug 16, 2010

"Poetry is what gets lost in translation"
Robert Frost, American poet, 1874-1963


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
A CAT tool? Aug 16, 2010

Lingua 5B wrote:
I suppose you meant "poem", not "poet"
The form is a poem's rhythm. The bad form jeopardizes the rhythm, as if you had a beautiful song played by a very bad musician on a bad instrument.

I understand that no conventional CAT tools now can control accurate quality of poem translation. Can anyone suggest a good one?

Best regards,

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:03
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
No Aug 16, 2010

When I first read the post title, I said to myself - NO!

Poems are too complex and there is not only the rhythm, the melody and the meaning to be covered in the "new version". Poets work hours to perfectly express a single row, changing it in various ways until they feel it good enough to be published. Then they may come back to that single line after few months or years and change it. And they write in their native language. And their native language is polished up to perfectionism.

A translator-poet would do probably the same, would write and rewrite. Maybe it is not a good example, but a painted and repainted picture, even if it is very close to the original, will never be the original and will always be considered a copy. Translation is not the same with copying, but anyway... it means trying to say the same in another language, with different words and a translated poem will always have to loose something from the original... or to express even more, who knows. But is will never be the same as the original.

Well, and there is certainly not the right moment to talk about CAT tools (?????). If real people can not translate poems,why should a machine be able to do that?


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xxxOlaf
Local time: 18:03
English to German
There is one that doesn't require translation... Aug 17, 2010

Fisches Nachtgesang by German poet Christian Morgenstern doesn't require any translation, if you're familiar with prosody marks, that is.

Fisches Nachtgesangt


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Werner Maurer  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
You need some poetic license sez oy Aug 23, 2010

I've translated the odd poem - not for pay- and if I say so myself, am moderately pleased with my work. I think the principle of conveying the thought in the target language is what most applies, and in this case with the added criterion that it must read like poetry.

I have taken liberties with the meter (though if the meter was constant throughout in the source language, then it was also constant throughout in the target language, albeit not the same meter) - being able to do that helps a lot! - but I don't know if I'd be allowed to do that if translating poetry for pay.

Since poetic license is routinely employed by poets writing in the source language, does it not stand to reason that it can and should be applied in translation? E.g. the aforementioned liberties with meter, and ditto for rhyme scheme or simply converting rhyme to blank verse, or even vice versa if need be.

I'm a stickler for precise meter and my translations reflect that. Unmetered poetry might actually prove to be the greater challenge (I've never tried it), especially since as often as not it's not even comprehensible in the source language, so how on earth are you gonna translate it?

Euphony is whole 'nother issue. You can twist your own language in all sorts of nifty ways and still sound great, but the target will have a whole different set of ways in which "correct" language can or cannot be played with in a euphonic manner. I've seen translations that were absolutely clear and that accurately conveyed the ideas, but simply didn't come across as poetic in the target language, despite having rhyme and meter.


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:03
Swedish to English
+ ...
Cat tool Aug 23, 2010

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.) wrote:

Lingua 5B wrote:
I suppose you meant "poem", not "poet"
The form is a poem's rhythm. The bad form jeopardizes the rhythm, as if you had a beautiful song played by a very bad musician on a bad instrument.

I understand that no conventional CAT tools now can control accurate quality of poem translation. Can anyone suggest a good one?

Best regards,

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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Francesco Toscano  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:03
Member (2010)
English to Italian
+ ...
A poem is always translatable Aug 23, 2010

komeil zamani babgohari wrote:

translatibility in poem is of course time taking. it needs more attention.
since reading a rendered poem and look at the source we get it is not meaningfully rendered.
supposed we could render meaning, what is happened to the form?
form makes a text a poem. do we have to refuse the form when translating a poem or what??


You shouldn't refuse to consider the form.
Here is a small example of why a poem is translatable.
It is taken from Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto 7, line 25-30.

Qui vid'i' gente più ch'altrove troppa,
e d'una parte e d'altra, con grand'urli,
voltando pesi per forza di poppa.
Percotëansi 'ncontro; e poscia pur lì
si rivolgea ciascun, voltando a retro,
gridando: "Perché tieni?" e "Perché burli?".

"… I saw multitudes to every side of me; their howls were loud
while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.
They struck against each other; at that point,
each turned around and, wheeling back those weights,
cried out: Why do you hoard? Why do you squander?' "

The alliteration of "p" in Italian "voltando pesi per forza di poppa" is rendered in English with the allitteration of "w", "while wheeling weights".


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