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This article is taken from PN Review 235, Volume 43 Number 5, May - June 2017.

Translator’s Notebook : 3 (ed. James McGonigal)
III. The Performance of Translation
Edwin Morgan

ON 7 DECEMBER 1956, Edwin Morgan was in Bristol to speak to the University Literary Society on ‘The Translation of Poetry’. The event must have been part of a conference on the work of Alexander Pushkin, for he deliberately addresses the Russian’s work in drama and includes a translation of part of one of his short plays in verse. He had completed this in June 1956, presumably with the conference invitation in mind. Compared with a more theoretical approach in the talk that he had given earlier that year at University College, Keele (see PNR 233), Morgan’s intention now seems to be to combine reflection with public performance, using translations from a range of poets to exemplify different problems faced by the translator. Or we might say that his reflections emerge from the more private process of performing translation. As at Keele, his choice of foreign poets and forms may reveal something of his own inner life. But here we might also sense a reciprocity in the act of translation, where Morgan appears to give back to the foreign poet something of his own language and inventiveness. JAMES MCGONIGAL

THE TRANSLATION OF POETRY1


The first question we have to answer is, Can poetry be translated at all? There has always been a lot of scepticism on this point. It’s expressed, for example, by Shelley in his The Defence of Poetry: ‘Hence the vanity of translation; it were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible […] as seek to transfuse from one language to ...
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