Services | 01.09.2009

Poetry Translation

Poetry translation is perhaps the ultimate showcase for a translator’s creativity. Far from the black and white nature of technical documents, poetry, its intention and its meaning, is very much open to interpretation by its reader and of course by its translator. Critical interpretation is a factor in all types of translation; however poetry is a genre whereby the role of interpretation is extremely pertinent.

Casting a poem into another linguistic and cultural system is a complex decision making process as there are so many possible approaches to such a task. These different approaches stem from the translator’s unique interpretation of the source text coupled with their priorities and aims for the target text as well as those of their client.

Poetry translation can have a dual purpose, to not only recreate the original in another language, but to also satisfy the credentials for being considered poems in their own right. Thus, it is no surprise that the poetry translator is faced with the perennial conflict between remaining faithful to the source and pushing the outer boundaries of their creative license.

Should the translator respect the structure and form of the source text, therefore translating verse as verse and prose as prose and potentially risk altering the meaning or fail to evoke the intended emotions and thoughts among its readers, or should they concentrate on the latter and sacrifice the former? Ideally we would want to retain all aspects of the source including the meaning, form and effect; however, from experience this is near to impossible!

Unfortunately agencies such as the Translation People rarely have the challenge of managing a poetry translation project as:

  • The general public and businesses do not generally have a need for poetry to be translated,
  • If a poem is to be translated, it is usually a collaborative process between the original author and the translator (who is often a writer of original poetry in their own right) and is therefore commissioned by the publishing house of the original work.

Nevertheless, should you need a poem translating, then we are perfectly placed to help with our vast network of translators many of which specialise in literary texts such as poems.


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