Monday, 19 May 2014

translating poems

Recently I have tried translating poems from my mother tongue, Tagalog, to my 'second love' English. I found literal translation quite easy as I am fluent in both languages; however, choosing the right/most appropriate words to use in poetry translation is a different matter. You must ensure that the translated poem doesn't lose its linguistic grace, art and musicality. 


So today I traveled to Shrewsbury to meet up with my mentor (a prolific poet) whom I'd like to call 'Mr S' to talk more about translating poems. I recently suffered from pneumonia, today is actually the first time I've been out and about for weeks! I'm still managing to smile and put some make up on; after all the problem is my lungs, not my face!

A view from the train window

a little mayfly joined us during mentoring session

 The ever so lovely, historical river Severn


Yes, this was what I had for lunch!

Robert Frost once said, "Poetry is what gets lost in translation."  I can't really say if I agree or not. I won't elaborate what I really think about that statement. The point is, recently I find translating challenging, it's quite  an enticing break from reading or writing poems! 

Today these are what I learned about translating poems
  • stay close to the original poem as ,much as possible - certain words are there for a reason, no need to add or remove adjectives, adverbs, etc. Once you start adding stuff in a translation, it becomes your own poem, only inspired from that original poem or others may actually think it's just an ugly, unethical act of plagiarism. 
  • the poet is the master, and you as the translator, is the servant - i need not say more.
  • read the poem again and again - until you memorize the words by heart or until you learn its rhythm and its flow so the sounds become a graceful dance. The poem is the lead and you just follow instinctively.
  • if possible, know the poet- what does he/she really want to say when the poem is written? what does the poet think of your translation? what could be improved? some words give certain meanings/imagery to the readers; however, traditions and cultures could have a big impact to the significance of these words. For example, in Urdu, a word 'peacock' may symbolize boastful artists/poet, whereas in English, it may just give an impression of something extravagant or beautiful. 
  • Lastly, enjoy the process. Never give up, breathe and relax...

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