NPR has been celebrating National Poetry Month in the US on Twitter, using the hashtag #NPRPoetry. A recent post posed the question of whether poetry can be translated or if “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” Poet and translator Aaron Coleman translates one of the poetry submissions and discusses his method.
“I approach translation even knowing that it can’t quite be what it is in the original language,” he says.
The language lapses that inhibit an ideal interpretation can ultimately be “a creative, productive failure,” he adds. “Maybe it can open up a new way for us to see what can happen in English and what can happen in Spanish, for me, or whatever the original language is.”
Instead, translation can be transformation. “I think we all want to have translation work as a process of reproduction, but it’s really a process of transformation,” Coleman says.