favorite individual dual language poetry books
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there are penguin paperbacks for poetry in the european languages that give the originals with literal translations as footnotes rather than attempting to create a poem in english. these are very helpful.
i recall seeing an italian paperback, not a high price one but an ordinary paperback, which put the original english to the poems -- i think some longfellow -- in the margin, but Usanian publishers are shy of foreign tongues . . . -- it is too bad you are not interested in japanese. I will copy what i wrote on my japanese group below, for not a soul has responded and it has been up two weeks and the principles are for the most part the same. I am not going to call my own books (see my library) my "favorite individual dual language poetry books," but i can say they break new ground in that field on many fronts.
The only books most people have seen written in English with plenty of Japanese in both the original script and Romanization, other than text-books or readers, are R.H. Blyth’s series on haiku, senryu and zen. I have two questions and some tentative replies. First, A) why should there be so few such books?
1) The publishers could not print them cheaply (so most are printed by Japanese publishers).
2) The publishers did not have any way to edit them
3) The publishers thought foreign script would make the book look too hard and scare off readers
4) Few writers about Japan knew Japanese
5) The idea of a book in the English language world is boring – unlike Italy, where even a paperback might have some of the translated language running along the margins and Japan, where anything goes (sometimes the wroing way – i wish the vertical writing could run left to right so mixed language books could be beautiful and easy to follow!).
Today, 1) is no longer a valid reason. One can pdf and embed the Japanese font as easy as pie and POD printing is cheap and high quality. The academic presses that offer tiny books with Japanese in them for prices so high yours truly cannot buy them count on authors and buyers not knowing this. 2), remains a problem for how many publishers employ an editor with a bilingual computer? If you must do all the work yourself, you might as well become an author-publisher and get paid for it (which is what I did). 3) Publishers still insult the intelligence of good readers who would love to see Japanese and, judging from the response to my books, are grateful to have the notes on the same page as the text rather than hidden in the back. 4) Even most people who “translate” are still not fluent writers of Japanese, and unlike Blyth, lack support needed to overcome this. 5) What can I say? Do you agree? Disagree?
And, second, B), what benefits does Japanese bring to books written in English?
1) Interpretation. Japanese is full of homophones and Japanese pun as much in their poetry as other languages rhyme. It is hard to tell the meaning of the original and intent of the poet without seeing how it was written. Romanization does not suffice.
2) Identification. Japanese and English are so different that poems can be unrecognizeable in translation. Romanization helps, but the thing itself is most useful.
3) Aesthetics. All foreign script has decorative value, but the Chinese character is superb. I think they made Blyth’s books more attractive and, in my books, I use them as illustrations as well as text.
4) Instruction. Some readers may wish to use the book to improve their reading of Japanese. Part of that is learning the enormous variety of ways things may be written (Blyth tends to present poems in standard format, while I give the more varied reality. Think of the many spellings of Shakespeare’s name to the tenth power!). Even Japanese readers may not be aware of this and learn something.
5) Finally. Japanese like it. More than one Japanese, innoculated against haiku by being shown subtle ku when too young to appreciate them, confess to rediscovering haiku as adults by reading Blyth when living abroad. My books offering a far greater number of haiku on certain themes than any books published in Japanese, likewise permit Japanese readers to enjoy something they cannot find elsewhere (indeed, they are now selling better in Japan than in the USA).
Do you have anything to add? Questions? And, if you have read my books -- see my library, which, like Thoreau is mostly my own books (I kid: I do not have time to input more of the library at this time, so I started with my own and a handful of favorites) -- criticism?
My favourite dual-language poetry books:
One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine: A Bilingual Edition: some wonderful translations (by Norman Shapiro) of a wide range of poems from different periods of Verlaine's life. Good cross-section of various themes and styles. Here's the full review
The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse: this little but comprehensive volume has translations from Gaelic, old French, old English and Scots. It's basically an anthology of poems of wide-ranging themes and styles reflecting the multi-lingual heritage of Scotland. Some poems rather obscure, but many will appeal to any lover of good poetry. Here's the full review
And then there's '300 Tang Poems: A New Translation' from Commercial Press, with both the original Chinese and English translation on facing pages.
I'd love it if translated poetry always came with the original included, and I agree with most of your points. The only obstacle I can imagine might be the increase in the number of pages this doubling would entail. Perhaps some copyright issues as well...
Funny you should've mentioned it, I have as much as I could find of Japanese classical poetry, and Blyth's books ARE the only ones with the Japanese original. (I wonder if that did reflect on the price though--my "Haiku" 4 vol. set is one of the most expensive I own.)
I have the Kunitz and Hayward Akhmatova, and I like it very much too - in fact, I don't seem to like Akhmatova in most other translations and don't feel like I'm reading anything poetic anymore. I have the same problem with most translations of poetry.
You know, I suggested to LolaWalser once that we open a blog or website in which people share their opinions of which book editions/translations/etc. are the best ones to get - which ones have more notes, are more accurate, have been recently supplemented, etc. Would anyone be interested in such a venture? It's not much of a commitment - maybe an occasional entry whenever you feel up to it - and it greatly helps newcomers to obscure literature in deciding on the best introduction to a body of work.
What I'm getting to is that when you don't know a language well or at all, and you want to read a poet in that language, your first introduction (ie translation) to that poet can turn you to or turn you off him/her - and I guess most of you feel the same way. There are many examples - I have a bilingual edition of Heine, Songs of Love and Grief, translated by Walter Arndt, which I think is a brilliant and almost perfect example of good poetic translation - it made me fall in love with Heine's work, but I have yet to find another translation of Heine that works for me. Rilke, too - despite the abundance of Rilke translations, my favourite is still the Stephen Mitchell work, and possibly select poems by Edward Snow and a few others. Then there's Cavafy, one my favourite poets and one of greatest of the 20th century - I can't stomach much Cavafy in anything except the Rae Dalven translation because I feel others miss the tone of his work, even though I don't ready any Greek!
So would anyone care for such a 'co-op' blog?
Existanai and Lolawalser: I think it would be very helpful to have a best translator thread here, so I'll start one. I don't know how to do a coop blog.
It scares me to think of how many new copies I will have to get of books I already have 2 or three translations of.
I'm lucky in that I learned to read a lot of the languages in my youth, but not Greek, Russian or Portugese. I am at the mercy of translators for Cavafy, Seferis, Blok, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Pessoa among others. I don't pay much attention to the translators of the languages I know pretty well, because I only use them if I can't understand a word or a sentence.
Then I find that the sentence isn't in the translation half of the time.
If anyone feels like tackling Dante with little more than holiday Italian (like me), the John D. Sinclair dual-language version is great. You can enjoy, as much as you can, the music of the original, without losing the sense of it.
Almigwin, thanks for opening a thread! It's a good idea, although I feel a blog is nicer because it's more 'open' to the internet public and not simply frequented by a specific community like LT, at least at the moment.
When I say 'co-op' blog I simply mean a blog that has more than one author. This is a pretty simple affair. One person starts a free blog and adds others as 'authors'. You can choose to sort your entries alphabetically (I believe.) So whenever you post on a writer, your entry will find itself in the right slot so long as everyone follows the same, simple system for post titles, ex. "Writer-Title-Translator-Publisher/Imprint-Year of Publication/ISBN". Anyone who wants to contribute from time to time can be a 'blog author', the public can comment in response to each post. It should be very simple and quick both for authors and readers, like a dictionary, and no extra effort or investment should be required.
I'll leave the idea open for discussion. I think members will be grateful for your new thread in the meanwhile.
I like the idea of a "best translator" discussion thread - or blog (to which I'd happily contribute, though I know nothing about blogging). You really don't know what you're getting most of the time with translations, though it is always helpful when a translator includes a preface explaining his/her approach to the poet being translated. Existanai mentioned Walter Arndt's Heine, which I didn't know about, but I know that for many years Arndt's was the standard translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, until the splendid version by Charles Johnston came along. Nabokov's translation was a fascinating attempt, brilliant in its way, but one tha said more about the translator than the work -- although his commentary on EO is invaluable.
Oops, I guess I should be posting this in the best translator thread!
BTW, Existanai, I agree with you about the Rae Dalven translation of Cavafy. It was the version through which I first encountered Cavafy, and it is still one of my favorite books.
Lolawaser-sama, Sorry to get back here so slowly. I was working on yet another bilingusal book, this time all dirty senryu of the type blyth could not translate (censors) and ueda could not (chicken? pc-phobia?). Re the increase of pages, it depends whether one guards all that space sacred to publishers of poetry in english. As i show with illustrations of japanese text in that senryu book, japanese pack them in -- 10 to 60 senryu (or haiku) per page. If we like a poem we are free to copy it and give it all the space it needs, hell, write it on the wall even. i got 3000 cherry blossom haiku originals with an average of 2 translations each, romanization, gloss AND more explanation into 740 pages . . .
Re.: Perhaps some copyright issues as well...
Most of the haiku were written between 1500 and 1900 .... in the book with a thousand sea cucumber haiku, i had a couple hundred modern ku but have only met with delight except for where i called a her and his -- and that poet runs a bbs which is my second home now . . .
Almigwin, Existanai, none of my books are single-poet collections, and there are few of the poems you could compare in translation, but if you want to see what can be done when translating between exotic rather than cognate or near cognate tongues, there are no books i know of providing even close to the information i do, and i would be very curious how you respond to them. You can search inside all of my books at either amazon or google book.
Hi Keigu, sorry to respond so late, but I opened this thread only today.
Unfortunately I'm not sure I understand the last part of your post - are you telling us about a book you've published?
Speaking of dual-language editions, I discovered today that a new translation of Cavafy's Collected Poems with the facing Greek text has been published in the Oxford World's Classics series - looks lovely!
Existanai, i have published many books including 5 with a total of 7000 haiku and 1000+senryu in the original w/ romanization, literal gloss & an average of two translations each. If you put in my name (robin d. gill) at Amazon all will pop up for you, or if you do not want to go there, try the new books page at paraverse.org. From the reviews posted at my site (from Modern Haiku, R.A.L.P.H., Metamorphoses (journal of five colleges for lit. transl etc. good places but nothing big= why you do not know of them = it seems they are highly appreciated by most who seek them out, but I have not yet had enough exposure in major media to find out how a broader readership will react to so much information. A few readers -- not many -- have balked at the multiple translation, one was grossed out? by the ugly attempts to give a direct translation/gloss, but I have not yet encountered a single person who did not like having the Japanese; but that may be because they see it as art!
As a followup to #20, I have just put up a blog post about dual-language poetry books and the difficulties of translation, which covers the poets above and also Osip Mandelshtam and Basim Furat:
Comments about dual-language texts:
Poetry allows for this in terms of space whereas any other genre does not and would be prohibitive (although there are some dual language short story anthologies).
The languages which may beneficially require transliteration of course make the task more complicating.
I love dual language texts even though I may not know a language well or even at all. They give insight into the role of sound and even rhythm that is still accessible even if my knowledge of the originating language is imperfect, or non-existent.
I also love compilations of multiple translations of the same poem, probably most of all! Somehow these work to somewhat provide an antidote to the vagaries of the translation process (avoiding carefully such words as limitations and imperfections which carry negative connotations).
Let us all honor and revere the art and craft of the translator who provides us access where there would otherwise be none....
A German translator who wrote re my dual language book of dirty senryu wrote
> > I normally don't annoy authors, but I simply need to tell you how happy > your "woman without a hole"-book made me. It's so interesting, funny and
> well-presented, I loved it to bits, and I don't even speak Japanese. > > (perhaps I should add that I translated (and published, which was kind > of not easy) Lord Rochester's poetry into German; which makes me, kind of, a> colleague?)
Though my reading of German is poor, what I can read of her translation of John Wilmot Earl of Rochester Der beschadigte Wustling (dtv) is so delightful and so I must now call it my favorite individual dual language poetry book outside of my own. I would suggest starting with Satire auf Charles II. Were i a fast typist, i would put in some lines right now but the mail awaits on the far side of the train track, the cows await hay and clouds approach . . .
(robin d gill, if you are not asian-language enabled)
Bi-lingual texts are great, but have the tendency to put people off buying them if they are (as so often in the US) done as low-quality school-books. I love Anne Carson's If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho in its Knopf hardback edition, but the paper-back would put me off reading anything. Similarly the various bi-linguals published - I think - by Dover I'd bin before reading.
Other best bi-linguals? Michael Hamburger's Poems and Fragments of Friedrich Hölderlin (already mentioned above), T. Carmi's Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, and A. J. Arberry did a rather nice edition of Omar Khayyam for the Chester Beaton Collection with a Persian text, Arberry's own translation, Fitzgerald's translation (maybe two versions) and on occasion another poet's translation as well!
#24: "have the tendency to put people off buying them if they are (as so often in the US) done as low-quality school-books."
Proof? Personally, given the choice between a paperback and a hardback, I'll almost always go for the paperback. I own very few high-quality books, because they're rarely convenient to carry around and they're more expensive. I don't know; maybe if I get rich I'll have a nice bookshelf full of books bound in leather, but they won't be reading copies. Right now, I've got quite a collection of the Dover books.
So anecdote versus anecdote, but your statement is at best a huge simplification.
#25: No, prosfilaes, sorry if I didn't make myself clear but my diatribe wasn't against paperbacks in general but trashy paperbacks made using cheap nasty paper. While I can cope with these for novels, I find poetry hard to enjoy on such books. It's a personal reaction. The Carson book was a particularly stark example, as what was a beautiful book in hardback made an especially nasty paperback. Dover do a cheap range that looks and feels really trashy (but I don't so often see cheap US paperbacks, being in the UK, so I don't know how typical the range is). I don't mind the better-quality Dover paperbacks, and indeed I'm currently reading the Dover edition of Burton's "Pilgrimage to al-Madinah and Meccah" (wouldn't it be good to read that in a leather-bound first edition, though!).
Dover has a super-cheap "Thrift" line, priced at a dollar or two, which is printed on inferior paper, but other than those, I find Dover paperbacks far superior to Penguins, as paper quality and binding go. I have a number of Dovers 40-50 years old, looking as bright and crisp as if they were printed yesterday, whereas even new Penguins tan and crease in no time. I don't know whether the newish "Deluxe" Penguins are considerably better... I have a few, they seem to be more sturdily bound (and are somewhat larger), but paper quality doesn't strike me as much higher than in the ordinary ones.
By the way, offhand I don't recall any bilingual editions in the Dover "Thrift" line. I have the impression bilingual Dovers are generally of the usual better quality, but I don't own enough of either to know for sure.
I have to admit that the bilingual text I saw seemed to be in the Dover house style for their thrift range, but I can't swear it was Dover. But I was discussing what did and didn't sell with a guy in the shop (as we considered what the shop should stock), and we came to the conclusion on discussion that bilinguals sell but only if they don't look like schoolbooks.
As to the house style of Dover, that's really a matter of taste and what you're used to. I far prefer Penguins; the Dover books seem a bit large for me (I'd rather have the older, smaller Penguin format personally) and a bit big for my pocket, which is where I like to keep paperbacks if I can. Besides, Dovers are a rarity in the UK so I've grown up with Penguins. But Dovers are no doubt ideal for someone with less mobile reading habits than my own, and they are well made.
Oh, I'm sure I have more Penguins than any other English language publisher, who doesn't... I only wish they had a cheap and vast bilingual line, such as the Italian BUR (Biblioteca universale Rizzoli), say.
Yes, the new BURs are pricey but nice to read. The old ones were nasty but very affordable. The eternal balance... But the standards have definitely gone way up. They're as good as the Oscar Mondadori Classici Greci e Latini series now, and much wider (BUR have volumes on satyr drama, fragments of Greek comedy, nice new editions of late Greek authors like Zosimus...).
Shikari, maybe England was short on glue -- my old english paperbacks, including penguin are in many pieces. . . You make me wonder, though, just how long my books will last.
Everyone, it might be nice to have a typology of dual language texts
The original text (in English) for the poems was on the margins of the Italian eg I mentioned in message #3. But, with the Rochester poetry I mentioned above, we have it in parallel text and in many old books we find original quotes in the text but odd-looking, as if pasted in. Academic books usually (?) romanize Japanese and save the real thing for the back of the book -- but is that dual language? My books keep them closely knit together on the same page -- or, some might say put them in promiscuous proximity, so at times I almost become macaronic.
Oops! In another talk, I just wrote I maybe never found this group then I saw I not only was here but seem to have killed the talk for almost 2 months. Oops!
I think I will try to get some friends in other countries to come here, for a talk with this subject should be more active, no?
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