Plenum: Translating as a Form of Smuggling

VERSschmuggel / reVERSible: An Anthology of English Canadian Poetry / Poésie du Québec / Dichtung aus Deutschland

Three books in one. Not only because of the three languages but also because of the three routes (sections). And of course one can double back on any route. One language’s version suggesting a re-reading of another language’s version. Interestingly and tantalizingly not every version in one language is translated into both of the the other two: in the anthology as a whole the German meets either the French or the English or both. What is on offer is a project with possible continuations.

The reader is positioned in a space similar to the translators and poets: as Nancy Hünger writes: “we know that poems are much smarter than we are.” And so we are placed in a place where “we mistrust ourselves but never the poem, because it speaks for itself.”

And in time the poem speaks again. Translation is a game of time. It’s about revisiting.

And for me, I am delighted by detail. The hefty volume offers up a cartography of small, magical, intimate moments. Take for instance one word: ce verbe (Monique Deland), dieses wort (Maren Kames), these textual cogs and gears (Sandra Ridley). A lovely meta-moment ensues.

There are other intricate pleasures to explore in these records of translational encounters. Pleasures that arise from reversible re-reading. Pleasures that yield to the power of the smarter poem.

Contemplating diffuse, dispersed working of “these textual cogs and gears” as per Sandra Ridley, I note the lowercase “wort” in Maren Kames’s intriguing intervention (avoiding the usual German capitalization). Each translating that Logos evocation of “ce verbe” of Monique Deland.

And so for day 3000

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