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This review is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

FATALITIES ON THE ROAD FROM WALES ROBERT MINHINNICK, The Adulterer's Tongue: Six Welsh Poets: A Facing-Text Anthology (Carcanet) £9.95

Twm Morys, who writes mainly in the traditional Welsh metres and enjoys a reputation as something of a troubadour (he sings to the harp and has his own pop-group), says that whenever he sees English versions of his poems he only dimly recognises them, `like friends who've been in some terrible accident'; he therefore forbids translation of his work. Menna Elfyn, on the other hand, has a stable of translators with whom she collaborates so closely in the production of whole books such as Cusan Dyn Dall / Blind Man's Kiss (Bloodaxe, 2001) that it is sometimes difficult to say precisely what their respective parts have been in the translation process.

Gwyneth Lewis, too, writes brilliantly in both Welsh and English but manages to avoid giving the impression that she is translating herself by making poems, now in one language and now in the other, that have their own separate lives. Bobi Jones, at 74 by far the oldest and most prolific poet represented here, writes exclusively in Welsh and in the `free' metres; he is sceptical about translating from Welsh into English but has allowed Joseph P. Clancy, the distinguished American translator now domiciled in Aberystwyth, to translate a selection of his work. Elfyn, Lewis and Jones are included in Robert Minhinnick's book, but Twm Morys is not. That fact is enough to suggest that the field of translation is fraught with some pretty complex questions about national identity and linguistic integrity.

Although not ...


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