Marilyn Hacker on the FSG poetry blog

April 25, 2008
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Marilyn Hacker, award winning poet and translator of over twelve books of contemporary French poetry including Guy Goffette’s recent Charlestown Blues: Selected Poems, a Bilingual Edition, has posted a piece on the art of translation to the recently launched Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux poetry blog this week.
jacket imageIn her post she discusses her intimate engagement with the works she translates and her constant struggle to remain true to the original. Hacker writes: “The translator must be faithful to the text’s linguistic valence, its connotations, to its music as well as its meaning.” And perhaps nowhere else does the translator develop this synergy between sound and sense than in Georgetown Blues where her selection of Geoffette’s work all center around the notion of “blue”—the color and the emotion, as well as that quintessentially American style of musical performance. From Charlestown Blues:

“Blue Gold”
No, tears don’t stop flowing
on earth, nor cries resounding.
Hills and walls only protect us
from bodies that come with and come undone
and the wide, peaceful rivers, and thunderclouds
carry grief away. But as soon
as the house is closed up like a handkerchief
on its square of bitterness
how heavy the scalding cup of coffee and the glass
of schnapps suddenly seem !
And so cold, useless and small the hand
which squanders light on your skin
like the sky wasting its blue gold on the sea.

Read another poem on the UCP website or see Marilyn Hacker On “The Most Engaged Form Of Reading” on the FSG poetry blog.

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