View Full Version : Poetic Translations; worth pursuing?

10-06-2015, 03:11 PM
As worth pursuing as any poetry is, of course. I'm not an optimist to the degree that I'd expect wild riches, but do you think there's much of a market?
I was inspired by a translation of Beowulf, and felt compelled to try my hand at translating the old norse saga of Erik the Red. It's hard work (and my Icelandic is getting a nice workout) and very rewarding intellectually, but do you think it's something that could ever see the light of market? Maybe not Erik the Red, which does consist of a lot of 'X, son of Y, son of Z..." And where the characters lived and spent their winters (though with no context beyond "between the Dögurdalar and Skraumahlaupsa", for example), but the concept in general?

Apologies for bad formatting; phones are hell.

10-06-2015, 04:40 PM
Something always ends up getting lost... certain linguistic nuances, word weight, sub text, connotation--there's often equivallents in other languages, but the original is where the truth was, so forcing a 'like-for-like' replacement will always be less than what was there originally. There's also structure to consider: if a poem is written in a certain metrical composition etc.

I feel it's worth persuing if the poem in question has something to say, some treasure that would otherwise be undiscovered--purely for the gist and the core concept... but, of course, the only real way to truely appreciate it would be to learn the originating language :)

The alternative is to do a re-telling of the original. Take the piece and do it in the language of your choosing instead of a straight translation. An 'inspired by' work with full references to the original <-- that might sell better, and if you stay as true as possible to the original, it will be a spiritual translation of sorts. Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabinogion) is just that, a collection of assembled Celtic tales and songs, retold in English via close translation by William Pughe (among others), yet very highly regarded as a classical piece of literature, and still the original tales are very often re-translated, retold and republished by new poets, writers, linquists and scholars.

There have been entire volumes of poetry translated and many have been successful across the globe regardless (Homer, Ovid), but for the ancient world classics it's more a case of the originators are so distant and the languages as good as dead... and so embedded into culture because of their content in its purest sense.

Translate what you can as well as you can, there's a pay-off in the achievement if nothing else :) I've translated many works from Dutch and Welsh into English and it gave me a great insight into not only language in general but also the craftmanship behind each work. You'll only end up a better poet for doing it.

Also, I'm a big mythology fan, so I'd buy it :D

10-07-2015, 03:14 PM
That's nice to hear, and I can understand that you always lose something in translation, which is a shame.
As for the metre, I was converting it to iambic pentameter and trying to keep a few hints of the original's alliteration. Sadly, of course, there's basically no way of replicating Old Norse metre in English.
Retelling isn't a bad idea, either, but I've already got so much prose in my head that I don't think I could cope with another project like that.