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Travels in Poetry

Welcome to the most frightening (and no doubt the least visited) page on this website, and I applaud your courage. But seriously, among all of the great ways to get to know another culture I happen to think that getting acquainted with literature is a pretty good one. Literature preserves the inner thoughts and reflections of people from other places and other times like no other medium quite can, and poetry is often the most personal of any literary expression. To borrow from one of Baudelaire's titles, a poem is an "invitation to a voyage" that takes you to shores that are both unexpected and familiar.

Of course, reading a poem in translation is not the ideal way of truly getting at the author's thoughts and purpose, which is why I made the effort to study a few languages and read poetry in their original versions. Though it can be laborious, I have always found the process worthwhile. I have also found translating to be rewarding because it both helps me to sharpen my own skills as a writer and forces me to read carefully and really think about a poem to create an accurate interpretation. But I will let my readers decide how successful my translations are. So far, I've put up a selection of French poetry and a few by Lorca.

One thing you should know is my intention is to give the reader a good sense of the original poem in every case, so you will find that none of my translations are in rhyme and meter even when the original versions are. Though I can certainly appreciate the skill it takes to render a translation into a rhyme scheme and proper meter, I find that doing so always takes the translation farther from the original as alterations in meaning, however minor, are inevitable. I won't go too far into my feelings on the matter, but I can say that Vladimir Nabokov does a good job of stating the case in the introduction to his translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, which happens to be my favorite English version of that poem. However, I do strive to make each translation poetic, rhythmic, and readable in English.

Last update for this page: 4 May 2007