The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 22, 2008

Marilyn Hacker On "That Balance Of Foreignness And Familiarity"

King_of_a_hundred_ho11bcbc_2 And now, we have another guest post from poet and translator Marilyn Hacker. Her translation of Marie Etienne's King of a Hundred Horsemen was the first winner of the Robert Fagles Translation Prize earlier this year, and it will be published by FSG in the fall. Marie Etienne is a French poet who has published eight volumes of poetry, five novels, and two books on the theater.

Here is Marilyn Hacker speaking about what drew her to Etienne's poems (if you have not read Hacker's earlier comments on translation, you might want to read this post first):

"In the case of Marie étienne’s poems, I am attracted by a considerable otherness: the absence of a unified lyric « I »;  a lifelong familiarity with and reference to landscapes, languages and cultures I have not experienced. But there is, too, a comity of interests including an intense focus on form and its inflections of content; on the disjunctive ways the poet can utilize and subvert narrative. King of a Hundred Horsemen’s sequences derive from both the sonnet and the prose-poem. They are oneiric and ekphrastic, and delight in blurring limits between the two as they (also) swiftly shift landscapes. As poets, we share pleasure, in very different registers, in integrating correspondence and dialogue, sometimes at its most demotic, into a poem. This not unrelated to the insistence on irony and humor as possibilities for poetry, noting the way irony can metamorphose to tragedy, to political statement, or both.

It is perhaps just that balance of foreignness and familiarity which draws the bilingual or polyglot poet-reader to the exercise, the art, of translation, and the maintenance of that balance in the translated poem which may most intrigue and delight its reader."

--Marilyn Hacker



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