* You are viewing the archive for February, 2015

W S Merwin, The Moon Before Morning, Review

Merwin is an American giant whose work I knew shamefully little till I read The Moon Before Morning. It was a revelation. There’s an immediate sensuous delight in the poems’ imagery and sound. The writing is in many ways exceptionally clear and at the same time richly evocative. Above all, its power seems to come from a combination of inner peace with a passionate love of the world’s gifts – a peace and a love it makes you share. Based on the little Merwin I’d previously read, I think this attitude to the world was achieved slowly and with difficulty.

Even … Continue Reading

Many Voices: a review of Echo’s Grove by Derek Mahon

I don’t suppose there’s anyone in the world who could have translated all these poems out of direct knowledge of their original languages. In his introduction, Mahon tells us he used cribs and commentaries for ones written in languages he doesn’t know. Where he does know the language, he’s written adaptations, not point for point translations. “I’ve taken many liberties,” he says, “in the hope that the results will read almost like original poems in English, while allowing their sources to remain audible”. He succeeds triumphantly in both aims. All his versions are good poems in their own right, many … Continue Reading

Tomas Tranströmer, “Romanesque Arches” – two translations

I found this a moving poem when I first read it in Bly’s translation[1]. In Fulton’s version[2] I find it almost overwhelming. Not knowing Swedish, I can’t compare how well the two capture the flavour and spirit of the original, but I have no doubt which makes the better poem in English.

You can link to Bly’s version here and Fulton’s here.

You just have to put them side by side to see how much more taut and dynamic Fulton’s is, even simply on the level of sentence construction. This is obvious from the … Continue Reading