No. 8-9


Hildred Crill   

Some Magazines Received, With Comments

Janus Head, 9.2 “The Situated Body,” 2007.
no man’s land, Winter 2006/2007.
Poetry, Vol. CXC, no.1, April 2007.

If readers follow the instructions on the front cover of Janus Head’s special issue on “The Situated Body” to rotate the volume 90 degrees counterclockwise so that Arakawa and Gins’ symmetrical image’s mirror line moves from horizontal to vertical, they begin to enter the theme, reading the statement: “What stems from the body, by way of awareness, should be held to be of it. Any site at which a person deems an X to exist should be considered a contributing segment of her awareness.” At the outset, Shaun Gallagher’s editorial explains the difference between “a living and experiencing body” being situated and “simply being located someplace in the way a non-living, non-experiencing object is located.”  

The essays that follow explore this theme within and between many disciplines including “philosophical anthropology, cognitive science, phenomenology, architecture and painting, and artistic performances like dance and music” (Gallagher).  Investigated in and through recent and profound advances in technology, the very old discussion of human experience continues from new angles and new dimensions open. Ingar Brinck, for example, examines artistic experience from this perspective: “seen from a cognitive point of view, artist and viewer have more in common than what distinguishes them.” Tucked among the essays are several poems and stories. The act of translation, particularly translation of Swedish women poets, and the place of these poets in contemporary Swedish poetry is discussed in Håkan Sandgren’s review of To Catch a Life Anew: 10 Swedish Women Poets, translations by Eva Claeson (Oyster River Press, 2006). One of Claeson’s translations of Marie Lundquist from the book appears in this volume of Ars Interpres.

In extra compact newspaper size, the Winter 2006/2007 no man’s land presents English translations of contemporary German writers, an incredible bargain at one euro for 40 pages. The issue gathers translations of poetry and fiction selected from the tenth anniversary edition of the Berlin-based magazine lauter niemand. Not only an in-print and online forum for the meeting of these two languages, the no man’s land project organizes live readings and discussions as well as regular German to English workshops, where translators can bring works in progress for general comment and intensive exploration of each agonizing word choice. As Isabel Cole explains on the Web site (www.no-mans-land.org), the title of this English translation journal itself is emblem for the whole endeavor: lauter niemand, Kafka’s untranslatable phrase, becomes through “an allusive approach” something somewhat different in the English version, no man’s land. There’s recognition here of both the inevitable loss and the opportunity in translation.  

Several of the poems and stories make chilling forays into this border territory: “the secret pleasure in self-erasure / goes with those places where you can’t go” (Andrej Glusgold, tr. Donna Stonecipher);  “shows where he was grafted: / there! in this banished place” (Ulf Stolterfoht, tr. Andrew Duncan);”Our arrival was catastrophically fine, / the sky picturesquely colourless, the present / like a precise body of water” (Ron Winkler, tr. Iain Galbraith). But the issue is packed with a multiplicity of subjects and perspectives, the work of more than three dozen writers and translators, many of whom were born in the 1970s and 80s. It would be difficult to turn down the invitation that opens the poem on the final page (Orsolya Kalász, tr. Donna Stonecipher): “Would you like to come over / into my language?” Be ready for no ordinary transaction: “Let’s exchange / give me the key / you take the ghost.”

In 2007, for the second year in a row, Poetry, under the editorship of Christian Wiman, celebrated April, national poetry month in the U.S., with a translation issue (also a great value at $3.75 U.S. dollars), a sustained look outward, away from poems written in American English. The poets in this issue come from most of the continents, with heavy European representation including Alcman, Horace, Dante, Rimbaud, among others. A number of poets and translators whose work has appeared in Ars Interpres appear here also (for example, “Days and the Transit System Grind Their Teeth” by Regina Derieva, translated by Daniel Weissbort).
A translator’s note accompanies each poem. At times fascinating, the comments fortunately don’t drown out the poems themselves. Only one note runs longer than a page. Some translators place the poet or the poem in historical or literary context. Many describe the daily struggle’s endless decisions about how to convey the music of the original or how to find an equivalent for a lexically rich word with as little loss as possible, along with some of translation’s stranger discomforts (“If there’s such a thing as slapstick with a foreign language dictionary, then I’m its involuntary master.” -- Jacqueline Osherow). A few give the basic theory of translation from which they work. Citing Dryden’s famous statement about trying to make Vergil speak the English he would have, had he been born in England, Charles Simic adds: “I hope he is right. Otherwise, I’ll burn in hell, which is already full of translators of poetry.” 



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