Translating poetry is equivalent to an act of literary cruelty and a deliberate destruction of everything that is poetic art.
Perhaps this is counter intuitive, at first glance.
After all, the translation of a poem from one language into another is done with the intent of sharing a literary creation across cultural boundaries and to bring the original into the limelight.
In reality, any poetry translation is a failure, and a dismal one, at that.
Here are some arguments.
Every poem, just like delicate clockwork, is made up of a harmony of puns, syllables, rhythms, accents, rimes, syntax, assonance and not in the least, of what I would call ‘poetic DNA”.
The ‘poetic DNA’ is the hallmark of a poet, whose unique perspective orchestrates, behind the scene, meaning and words.
Mozart’s music is easily recognized – it speaks of an incomparable artistic temperament.
Such is the case for poetry too – it bears the imprint of its author.
Mozart’s music remixed and re-written by others may be something that gets our attention for a couple of seconds, but then makes us run, full speed, back to the original.
Translating poetry is, in a way, the re- enactment of the legend of Procrustes from the Greek mythology.
Syllables are moved into another language, which turns the rhythm of a poem into a barbaric mash-up.
Groups of vocals and consonants are maimed, to make them fit another meaning.
Puns may not be rendered, since they may require foot-notes to explain a cultural context.
Changes to the minute clockwork that constitutes the delicate balance of a poem wreak havoc on the ensemble.
So what’s to be done?
Would you give up reading Dante if you cannot speak Italian, or would you rather read a translation of Dante’s poetry, knowing full well that the true Dante may never be within reach in the translated version?
It’s a difficult question.
Fortunately enough, the situation is marginally better when it comes to translating prose.
But don’t get me wrong – In this blog - I’m not suggesting that you read prose.
In this blog, I’m suggesting that you read poetry.