The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 10, 2007

"I Am Visting These Words More Than Reading Them"

Poetry in translation is its own animal. The level of balance that must be involved, keeping the desires of the poet intact and, at the same time, making the poem, with all its quirks of language, readable to a whole new set of readers.

One method NOT recommended, which I learned immediately upon receiving this recording of poems by Yves Bonnefoy is the Babelfish program available to translate languages instantly online. From that program, I learned that Bonnefoy's poem 'Les Planches Courbes' equates roughly to 'curved boards,' and 'La Maison Natale' is most likely 'the native house.' Even my three years of high school French--which consisted mostly of watching Muzzy educational videos--could tell there was something slightly off there.

So dear reader, here is Bonnefoy's introduction to his poems, where he speaks about reading his own poetry in translation (and where the title of this post comes from), and his poem 'Les Planches Courbes' (which translates best to English as 'The Curved Planks). You can listen to the audio below, or download these directly by clicking here or here. More Bonnefoy in French later today!


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