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My methods when translating poetry


The benefits of translating works by other poets
WD Snodgrass Poet
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I think… did… did we say… say the other day that Robert Lowell had said to me at one point, 'You know, if you're having trouble with your own work, and… and it's gotten too painful for you to handle it, take some of Mrs Norton's Rilke translations and try… well just ruffle or… a… and kick them around and try to make a poem'. And I finally did get to doing that. And I… I got to thinking: gee, these are better than a lot of the other translations that I see around. I did… I did that from time to time, and… and I liked what I was producing. And also, I… I really fell in love with… with the poem as I was working on it. But I feel like I can never really get a poem in another language. You've got to take that with your mother's milk. And so, in a way, I am making a new poem if I'm doing it in another language, even if… and I go to a considerable extent to preserve the literal con… the dictionary sense of the poem. It… I don't do like Lowell does, who’s… who'll sort of go off and make up his own poem just as a… take it… take the other poem for a springboard and go off. Yeah. No, I don't do that.

American poet WD Snodgrass, entered the world of poetry with a bang winning several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle. A backlash followed his controversial fifth anthology “The Fuehrer Bunker”, but in recent years these poems have been reassessed and their importance recognised.

Listeners: William B. Patrick

William B. Patrick is a writer and poet who lives in Troy, New York. Among his work are the poetry volumes "We Didn't Come Here for This" and "These Upraised Hands", the novel "Roxa: Voices of the Culver Family" and the plays "Rescue" and "Rachel's Dinner". His most recent work is the non-fiction book "Saving Troy", based on the year he spent following the Troy Fire Department.

Mr. Patrick has been Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute and has taught at Old Dominion University, Onondaga Community College, and Salem State College, and workshops in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Tags: Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Lowell, MD Herter Norton

Duration: 1 minute, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008