Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Translations by American Poets

Edited by Jean Garrigue

This unique collection of poems, translated by more than forty major contemporary American poets, grew out of a project of the Poetry Center of the New York YMHA supported by the Bollingen Foundation and under the direction of Miss Elizabeth Kray. The purpose was two-fold: “to stimulate the art of translation” and to open “the flow of foreign poetry into native English current.” This volume proves the success of both these aims in presenting a thesaurus of “translated poetry worth of joining the main body of American and English poetry.”

The original hundred or so poems, printed here in the language in which each was first written, are from eleven separate languages including Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. They were written by poets as diverse as the first century Roman Martial and our contemporary Russian, Andrei Voznesensky.

The poems in English, arranged and set against the originals, represent the choice of each translator commissioned by the Poetry Center. They therefore reflect above all each translator’s taste, inclination, and sense of affinity with the original poet and the original poem. None of them is a literal translation, but each is a rendering which becomes a poem in its own right in an individual and poetic style.

Readers familiar with the various languages can judge for themselves (since this is a bilingual edition) how well the translators have caught the mood and tone and have conveyed the richness of the original poems.

A further pleasure is to find translations by different American poets from the same foreign poet: for instance, translations of the contemporary Italian poet, Giuseppe Ungaretti by Isabella Gardner, Anthony Hecht, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Lowell, Allen Tate and Richard Wilbur. The Russian poet, Andrei Voznesensky, is translated by Jean Garrigue, Stanley Kunitz, and Richard Wilbur; the French poet, Jules Supervielle by Babette Deutsch, Denise Levertov, and May Sarton; the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf by Robert Bly and May Swenson. Both Francis Golffing and John Logan chose George Trakl, and both Stephen Stepanchev and Richard Wilbur translated poems by Anna Akhmatova.

In each case it is possible to relish the way in which the translator’s own poetic voice and style have influenced his method of rendering the original into English.

The foreign poets represented in this volume include some familiar and long recognized figures such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gérard de Nerval, and André Breton. There are also many poets less well known in American: Nicholás Guillén, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Jorge Carrera Andrade, Gerrit Achterberg, Harry Martinson, Umberto Saba, Nelo Risi, Raymond Queneau among others.

Two indices of authors (one of the original poets: the other of translators) briefly identify the writers. Miss Garrigue has contributed a meaningful introduction.

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