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This article is taken from PN Review 181, Volume 34 Number 5, May - June 2008.

Paulin's (Con) versions Adam Watt

'Translated verse is usually given away by the strenuous informality of its delivery. As if you had presented your passport and visa before anyone had asked for it: such behaviour only arouses suspicion.' Don Paterson, TheBook of Shadows

 The writing of versions has recently stimulated much interest. This essay approaches the question of writing versions through the optic of a recent account of the practice, Don Paterson's 'Fourteen Notes on the Version', the short essay appended to his Orpheus: A Version of Rilke 's 'Die Sonette an Orpheus' that appeared in 2006. The essay then considers two versions written by Tom Paulin that were published in The Road to Inver, his 2004 collection that, significantly, bears the subtitle 'Translations, Versions, Imitations'. I shall analyse Paulin's practice of versioning in the light of Paterson's essay, looking at poems written after Baudelaire and Mallarmé and comparing his versions with the original poems. There is a great deal of fascinating material in The Road to Inver - versions written after Goethe, Montale, and Mayakovsky, Brecht, Pushkin and Pessoa amongst many others - but my own narrow expertise means I shall concentrate here on Paulin's versioning from the French.

The following lines taken from Paterson's essay encapsulate, I think, what is going on in the writing of versions in contradistinction to what happens in 'straight translation':

A translation tries to remain true to the original words ...


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