Friday, June 22, 2007
In the class, 14 votes were cast, and every poem received at least one vote. The winner, with 4 votes, was Bucolics III, by Maurice Manning, with What Knits, by Paul Celan, trans. Ian Fairley, in second place with 3 votes.
10 votes were cast in the blog vote, and again every poem received at least one vote—with the same results: Bucolics III, by Maurice Manning, won with 3 votes, and What Knits, by Paul Celan, trans. Ian Fairley, was in second place with 2 votes.
I found most of the poems this week compelling in one way or another. Ordinarily, I would rank any poem by Paul Celan ahead of just about any other poem. Further, I wanted to judge this translation on its own terms as an English poem. But on those terms, I found it wanting, and several infelicities of phrasing led me to look at the German original, where I noticed a few choices that I found ... well, wrong, if I may put it that way. "Was näht" does not mean "what knits" but "what sews," for example.
As I read through the other poems, I kept coming back to Manning's "Bucolics" because of the rhythm, so I ended up deciding to vote for it. (Manning thus becomes the first poet to ever win two weeks in the same Daily Poem Project; he won back in week 7.)
Here are some of the comments from the call for votes:here. Week 10 results are here. A summary of the results of the first nine weeks is at the end of the week 9 results.
I'll be posting a call for votes for the final vote shortly.
- Donald Brown said...
Re: Celan poem. I can see being bothered by perceived mistranslation, but my problem with the English is that somehow the tone is wrong. It doesn't seem at all "playful." I attribute it not to mistranslation but to the problem of translation in general. "Ankunft,/ Abkunft" becomes "Arrival, /Origin." It's not wrong, but it just has no play at all. Then again I only turned to the German because I was so unconvinced by the English. If I'd liked the English poem, in its own right as you say, then I probably wouldn't have looked.
So Boss I give the vote to Manning.
- 4:00 PM
- Andrew Shields said...
I really appreciate your emphasis on the playfulness of Celan's poetry. He did become ambivalent about the beauties of meter and rhyme (both of which he was exceptionally good at), but he never relinquished the pleasures of word play.
- 6:33 PM
Here's my ranked list (my favorite is at the top):
82. Lightfall, by Pamela Alexander
78. Two Poems, by Tessa Rumsey (vote for both poems as a unit)
80. What Knits, by Paul Celan, trans. Ian Fairley
79. Don't Write History as Poetry, by Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Fady Joudah
83. Ars Poetica, by Henrietta Goodman
84. Tobacco, by Peg Boyers
81. Bucolics III, by Maurice Manning (only the first poem)
My vote goes to Ian Fairley's translation of "Was näht". 36 years after its publication, Celan's posthumous volume of poems, _Schneepart_, certainly one of the major works of twentieth century poetry, has finally been translated into English. Of course, no translation can ever be definitive; but every translation adds a reading--a voice--to the poem.
I can't say I'm partial to any of the selections this week. The winner is no doubt Celan in German, but then I can't read the poem in Arabic, so...no fair. In fact, though being a translator you might not like it, I can't really rank the translations with the others. The poem from Arabic reads in English like lines lifted from someone's notebook. And Celan in English is dull, not at all charming and not nearly so winningly enigmatic. So I don't really want to include either of those poems in my vote. That leaves those written in English, and I'll pick Manning again. I like some, not all, of his "Bucolics" I've heard or read -- the first one here is a pretty good one. There are better ones than any of these three. So, #81 wins, for me. The Rumsey poem (#78) mostly annoys me -- it has some good moments but I think it plays around too much in the early going. Boyers (#84) seems to me a "stop and start" poem. Little narrative bits with little lyrical throwaways; the apostrophe to the uncle at the end breaks into a new tone in what seems a gauche way to me. #82, Alexander's, "stops and starts" too, but I like it better (rank it 2nd), especially the part "I longed to be among trees." And the last two lines bring a nice close to it. Goodman (#83) lets me into a little claustrophobic moment but that's about it. It's a bit of the dark Lowellian confessional mode that can be pretty effective, but for some reason I don't believe its pathos, don't find it affecting.