Thursday, August 10, 2006

Poetry Translation

Some of you will know that I translate Italian poetry now and again. Recently, I’ve been translating a poetry collection, Il Bar del Tempo, by Davide Rondoni, a contemporary poet from Bologna. The book won the Montale Prize in Italy in 1999. Rondoni is particularly concerned with time, the intersection of the spiritual and the temporal, and with family relationships.

Over at PFFA yesterday, a poster started a thread on translation. I’d just translated a poem by Rondoni, called Incinta, dice il test (Pregnant, says the test). It’s one of the few Rondoni poems to have been translated into English. In fact, it’s been translated twice, and now three times, thanks to me. So I’ve posted the three versions and compared the translations on the Pffa thread.

I’m no expert in all this and don’t claim to be a particularly skilled translator, but I found it interesting to compare the translations and think again about the original version as a result.

7 comments:

SarahJ said...

A very interesting discussion on that poem - lovely poem. I liked your ending best, I think, how happiness IS the time. I speak a little Italian, and found the translations very interesting. It's such a difficult job.
cheers

Cailleach said...

I agree about the discussion on translation being fascinating. Being no expert on Italian, I can't really comment on which works best, but I see merits in all three (diplomatic or what). But it leads me into thinking that poetry itself, and the art of writing good poetry is all about translating anyway.

A picture paints a thousand words they say, but a poem is a specific 'translation' by a writer to convey an image/emotion/vision to a wider audience. Amazing then, how diverse reactions can be engendered by diverse readers.

apprentice said...

I liked your first verse and O's second. It shows how difficult it is to translate the nuances of another language. I have a good friend who is Spanish and she says she can only read poetry in Spanish despite having very good English, and working as a translator, as she feels she never gets under the skin of poetry written in English.

When I heard Adrienne Rich speak recently she said she was very indented to translators who brought foreign writers into her sphere. I'd love to speak Russian, I think it must have such soul.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks everyone, and I'm glad you found the discussion interesting. Dunc McReil has added a fourth translation now, and I'm about to comment on that. Cheers.

SarahJ said...

I showed the translations to my husband, who's italian, and we talked about the he-it problem... god, all those years I spent cursing the genders and now I just feel the english "it" is so sterile. I prefer the "he." We could just assume the couple knows the sex....
Thanks for sharing this poet - i'd never heard of him. no surprise but will definitely try to check him out.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks Sarah. This poem is one of Rondoni's more easily translatable works. He is an interesting poet with concerns for the spiritual but with imagery very much centred on contemporary city life. These concerns run alongside poems on family, isolation and relationships. There's an odd mix of mystical Catholicism and streeetwise postmodernism that together permeate his poems. I like most of what he does.

SarahJ said...

Thanks, Rob. I'd like to get one of his books for my husband. Or are you planning to have the Italian originals in your book of translations? Hurry up.
smile