publishing translations

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publishing translations

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Apr 3, 2007, 8:14am

I translate texts from Russian and Slovene into English. Although I have been interested in literary translation for a long time, I have not published very much. Now I am working on a translation of the poems of E. A. Baratynsky, as well as translations of contemporary Slovene writers. But I am a novice when it comes to publishing. Does anyone have any suggestions about: good places to publish English translations of poems (esp. older writing), good books to read about the practical side of getting literary translations published, good books about the practice of translating (one I can recommend: The Poet's Other Voice). Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Apr 3, 2007, 10:47am

Many literary journals publish English translations of other langauage poetry. Poetry, Prairie Schooner, etc. There's a good list of journals at the Poets & Writers website.

As for books, there's William Gass's Reading Rilke, though maybe that's too specific.

For publication, you'd just need to send the original with your translations, and I think you'd need the permission of the author or copyright holder of the original poem.

I love Stanley Kunitz's Akhmatova translations.

Apr 6, 2007, 10:34am

Runo, thanks very much for the suggestions and advice. I am very much interested in reading Gass's Rilke book. Another book I found interesting and useful was Honig's The Poet's Other Voice, where he interviews a number of prominent translators.

I am not familiar with Kunitz's Akhmatova. The big problem with translating Akhmatova, and most of the other important Russian poets, is knowing how to handle rhyme and meter, or more generally, the "music" of the poem. Up until very recently, rhyme still had a very honored place in Russian poetry and over the past two centuries, poets had found ways of turning it into an incredibly supple and meaningful instrument (especially, I think Mayakovsky, Pasternak, and above all, Tsvetaeva). Unfortunately, when English translators try to reflect the rhyme of the original, what results either seriously distorts the meaning or shifts the stylistic register of the poem, often making it sound too elevated, or turns the poem into doggerel. Maybe this effect is changing, however, now that rhyme seems to be returning to English poetry.

Apr 6, 2007, 8:03pm

Lot's Wife
by Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Max Hayward and Stanley Kunitz

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

From Poems of Akhmatova, by Anna Akhmatova and translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Published by Little, Brown & Co. © 1973 by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Granted by permission of Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agency. All rights reserved.

Apr 8, 2007, 9:55am

#4 Yes, this is a very lovely translation of a marvelous poem. Thanks for sharing it.

I have translated a few poems by Akhmatova, who is probably my favorite poet from that era, but like I said before, I haven't tried to publish anything.

Edited: Apr 8, 2007, 1:52pm

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Apr 8, 2007, 1:51pm

Rolig, I don't know much about publishing except that it's very tough, particularly poetry, and particularly poetry in translation. If I remember correctly, there are a few interconnected problems here: first, major book publishers will rarely touch such a work unless a market and effective marketing is guaranteed (meaning a Nobel Laureate's work etc.) You generally have to publish in magazines. The largest market for English-language work is the US, with the most magazines and so on. American magazines generally prefer either very famous poets or some minor local poets to translated works. You might have some luck with Akhmatova who is a major poet, but don't count on it. And because it's such a small market, there will be a lot of competition too - you'll have to look at the small-but-not-too-small magazines. And the latter, in turn, may not be able to offer you much in return, if anything, should you get published. These are some of the factors I vaguely remember from several years ago when I was trying to publish some (now embarrassing) poetry, and was (thankfully, in retrospect) rejected at a few places. Things might be different now, or I might simply be completely wrong. Why not read a few small but good poetry magazine websites? They often offer helpful advice, or you can get in touch with some of them directly. The publishing situation might be even better in Slovenia or a neighbouring European country than in the US, so you could always try that route too. I know nothing about publishing over there, however. I do wish you a lot of luck, and I'd love to see some of your translations, if that is fine with you.