For Bennie: on the translation of poems
For Bennie and anyone else who might be interested:
I can recommend two absolutely first-rate books on the art of translation:
"Translating Neruda: the way to Macchu Picchu" by John Felstiner ( Stanford University Press,1985.) This remarkable book, long out of print, but available in libraries and on Abebooks.com, alibris.com and from other sources, traces Felstiner's struggle to craft translations of Neruda's epic cycle of poems.
and . . .
"Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation" by William H. Gass. (Knopf, 1999). Gass is one of America's best writers, and long neglected. His parsing and intricate unwinding of Rilke's German is lively and full of soul. Gass analyzes all available translations of "The Duino Elegies" and other famous Rilke works as he goes, finally offering his own translation among the extant ones.
Anyone who is interested in the art and mystery of translating poetry into English ought to avail himself/herself of these books.
Also strongly recommended is Felstiner's "Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew". In this volume Felstiner, a great teacher from Stanford, California, details Celan's troubled life, ending in suicide, his great achievement as a poet ,the connections he forged between himself and other writers of the twentieth century, and the difficulties inherent in translating Celan's often rather obscure poems.