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This review is taken from PN Review 128, Volume 25 Number 6, July - August 1999.

KEVIN NOLAN, Alar (Equipage) £1.50
DREW MILNE, As It Were (Equipage) £1.50

Despite its unprepossessing title, Personal Pong is a pearl. Pierre Alferi's French is not only 'englished' but given another dimension by Kevin Nolan. What you get for your money is a stapled A5 pamphlet with a glossy green front cover, edged and laterally bisected by 5mm white bands in the form of a reversed E. I admired it even before I realised that it opens out into an A4 pingpong table, with a central crease and staples for a net. Assuming, for the moment, that there is a net, for this, after all, is vers libre, compared by Frost to tennis without one. Frost begs the question of an opponent, but what about the translator? The poet would aim to produce an untranslatable trope, with an alliterative smash or an almost imperceptible snick off an edge; the translator not just to find an equivalent, but to improvise a manifest improvement, lacing the ball with top-spin so that it skips under the bat or returning it with so much slice that it bounces back to base. If poetry is what gets lost in translation (Frost again), no translator stands a chance, but Alferi v Nolan is a real contest:

Dans cette scène nous jouions au ping-
Pong vous en robe de fleurs moi en nage maintenant
J'y joue sec au moyen d'une astucieuse maquette fais
Les questions les réponses à tous les coups...

        Inside this scene we could be
playing table ...

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