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This article is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Translator’s Notebook (ed. James McGonigal)

What Translation Can Teach
Edwin Morgan
A Translator’s Notebook (7)
edited by James McGonigal

TRANSLATION IS AN EDUCATION. Part of its enlightening effect comes from opening a door onto the context of the original poem and the cultural influences on its author. Another part comes from its effect on the translator’s own writing. This section of Translator’s Notebook takes Morgan’s engagement with Hispanic poetry further, beginning with a poet known to Federico García Lorca. It then looks back to Morgan’s translation of sixteenth- and nineteenth-century Spanish poetry, with just a glance towards his future engagement with Brazilian Portuguese. Morgan’s letters reveal how long-standing the influence of translating could be, as he recalls and shares what he has learned. Since he was a generous teacher as well as a poet, such advice was educational too. It was not information merely, but knowledge carried ‘by heart’, sometimes across decades until released by an enquiry.

In September 1991, Sam Gilliland, a young Scottish poet working on a collection, After Lorca, had sent poems for comment. Morgan mentioned his own enthusiasm for Lorca, and also for Luis Cernuda who, shocked by Lorca’s assassination, went into exile in several countries including Scotland, working briefly at Glasgow University. In the 1950s, Morgan had translated his ‘Cementerio de la ciudad’ as ‘A Glasgow Cemetery’. Gilliland was also a translator, interested in Mário de Sá-Carneiro, who committed suicide in Paris in 1916 aged twenty-six, while planning with Fernando Pessoa a third issue of Orpheu, a short-lived journal of Portuguese modernism:

13 September 1991

Dear ...

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