Visiting Professor Michael Schmidt today gave an impressive lecture to University of Bolton students in the English and Creative Writing programmes, and wider reaching interested cohorts, on translation of literature, specifically poetry. On this, he is an expert as founder of the well-respected Carcanet Press, founded in 1962, and editor of PN Review.
Professor Schmidt read some translated poems, and – he being from a Mexican background – gave a real insight into the art; not just of poetry, but also of translation. “Gap in tonality” was one theme – from English to Scottish to Welsh to Irish poems, for example. If you understand poetry or you understand translation, or, better still, you understand both, this was not a talk to be missed. Internationalism was definitely something we all came away from it with.
Mexican! Yeah, me too. It's true. Michael explained a whole lotta stuff. Octavia Paz dismissed MS's stuff as "kitchen Spanish". MS told us of Les Murray saying to South African writer Adam Schwartzmann to use his dialect. I asked about translation - do you interpret or do you take as literal; do repetitions occur through translation or not - are they intended? For example, in the poem we looked at, is it really "red" red" "red"; might it be actually "red" "crimson" "ochre"?
Just use your language, use your languages, I'd say. Michael Schmidt is inspiring. Work with the tools you have and go create.