It seems as if…

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez Villegas, Juan van der Hamen, 17th century (Instituto Valencia de Don Juan)

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez Villegas, Juan van der Hamen, 17th century (Instituto Valencia de Don Juan)

It seems as if I had to divest myself of my own library before I could start reading any of it. The sheer weight of unread books can neutralize a person. I don’t know if I ever told you the story, told me by a young man who had a book business in Ann Arbor, about the poet Gary Snyder, who has delved considerably into Eastern religions, who never has more than one book in his house, which he is currently reading, and who then gives the book away, once read. I was selling, at the time, a number of my books to the fellow in Ann Arbor.
[Correspondence, 1987. Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All riches reserved.]

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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3 Responses to It seems as if…

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    Living in Asia I can appreciate the mere possibility of going to a local library and checking out one book at a time. I haven’t read physical book in over 6 months. And so, one needn’t have a library if one has a library card. Better to own the literature in ones mind than on ones shelves.

    • JMN says:

      Damn, is it boring that I keep agreeing with you? I’ve pared my library down to about 28 inches of shelf and counting. If it doesn’t get read expeditiously it’s not gonna get read. Took me a long time to turn loose of the mirage of knowing that a scad of books provided. Two tiny tomes that I’ll take to my virtual grave are poetry books I acquired eons ago: “Campos de Castilla” by Antonio Machado and “Les fleurs du mal” by Baudelaire. I hope to do some translation around them on the blog, starting with very literal, prosaic renderings, like a trot, then progressing to renderings with more formal traits that echo, if not mirror, the prosody of the originals. Along the way I would comment on some of the challenges and considerations that come into play in the translation process. I know it’s an old saw that you can’t translate poetry. True enough, I suppose, but it must be done, and if you hit it just right you might almost create some new poetry in the process. A book I need to re-read is Lowell’s “Imitations” to see if it gives me some guidance or inspiration. Back to your comment about living in Asia. The year I studied in Barcelona I got a library card at the municipal library, but one wasn’t allowed to leave the building with any books. You had to read ‘em there or not at all.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        Translating poetry sounds like a very interesting challenge, but, yeah, it’s impossible to do it without changing it. I guess there are some broad outlines, like trying to find matching vocabulary in terms of meaning and rhymes, but since the texture of the poetry is wholly dependent on sound, in another language it becomes a different song, so to speak.

        So, for example, I speak some Chinese (need to brush up, of course), and you just can’t translate a French poem into Chinese without completely changing the way it sounds. Chinese is almost monosyllabic, and with tones. You might be able to skip around between romance languages, but Asian languages would be borderline hopeless, I’d think.

        I know you know this far, far better than I, but, translated into French, Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock gets altered in some peculiar ways.

        “In the room the women come and go
        Talking of Michelangelo.”

        becomes

        “Dans la pièce les femmes vont et viennent
        En parlant des maîtres de Sienne.”

        Well, they aren’t even talking about Michelangelo anymore, but the masters of Siena. My French is pretty crusty, but, I don’t think viennent and Sienne rhyme, and “go” and “Michelangelo” really do.

        I think translating poetry creates a new poem for which there are guidelines. I think it’s a great exercise for the person attempting to do it.

        Also, I read a book on Rimbaud when I was 18, all the poems were translated into English, and I flipping loved it. Also only read Baudelaire in English and loved it. Soooooo, I guess it can work, and you need to be bilingual to know how it doesn’t.

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