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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

IMAGINARY POETS ISTVÁN BAKA, Selected Poems. Translated by Peter Zollman and others (Abbey Press) £6.00 pb
TADEUSZ RÓZEWICZ, They Came to See a Poet: Selected Poems. Revised and enlarged edition. Translated by Adam Czerniawski (Anvil) £11.95 pb
MILA HAUGOVÁ, Scent of the Unseen. Bilingual. Translated by James and Viera Sutherland-Smith, introduction by Fiona Sampson (Arc) £8.95 pb
TATIANA SCHERBINA, Life Without: Selected Poetry and Prose 1992-2003. Bilingual. Translated by Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe) £8.95 pb

There is much in translated poetry that we are left to imagine, not least the sense of native word abrading on native word. Our own native sense of that abrasion, however, remains intact and is the reason why some refuse to read poetry in translation. 'Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard...' Is this the motto of the translator of poetry? Not, certainly, of Peter Zollman translating the Hungarian poet István Baka (1948-1995). 'This slim volume is a test, a test of fire and water. For Baka, refusing to comply with fin-de-siècle fashions, wrote in classic forms, and his main translator, Peter Zollman, recreated his rhymes and metrical schemes in tight English verse - conserving even the original melodies.' Alas, poor metre! (Alas, odd preterite! Is Zollman dead?) Rhyme is apparently persecuted by fashionable critics. There are reasons. If István Baka is 'one of the most significant lyric poets at the end of the twentieth century' [sic], the point cannot be substantiated in metric form unless his translators equal his formal skills. This is unlikely. But let us tip our hats to Zollman all the same. (Not all the translations are by him, al. here including John Wilkinson (2), Michael Longley (1) and Bill Tinley (2) - George Szirtes' second contribution seems to have gone missing or have been re-titled.) The pressures of metric translation have imprinted themselves, in rare cases fatally: if Baka were merely the author of this version of 'Pehotnij's Resurrection' (Tinley) there ...


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