Translation through Poetic Landscapes

I think I’ve been taken by the idea that a “translation” can be thought of as a movement of some idea to another location. I find the blend of conceptual and physical metaphor really appealing; an idea is not only an object than can be moved through space, but almost must be moved through (probably strenuous) effort. Maybe I’m the only one, but the image of a little mailman hunched over using every bit of their strength to carry a big, bulky crate sticks in my mind. When I think about it a little harder, though, I find translation is just a way of looking at language I’ve never thought of before. That’s exciting to me. Language sometimes gets stuck in either transactional or utilitarian ruts and my perception gets stuck with it, which isn’t necessarily wrong but it leaves out the immensity of language that underpins a translational view.

So many human interactions do rely on the little mailman being able to deliver some vague desires, ideas, thoughts to other peoples head. To think we’ve gotten to the point of being able to create complex poetry is astonishing to me. To think we’ve overcome the language and cultural barriers in that poetry, prose, whatever is even more astonishing. And to think we can deliver big ol’ idea packages with simple passing glances and other non-verbal cues, even though most basic, knocks me out of my chair. The fact that real, weighty concepts can jump through space, time, and people seemingly with such ease boggles my mind. I can only wish I could write poetry with the brevity and meaning of a smile.

Maybe this is all to say that it may be best to see language and all its translation as existing on more of a landscape than how we usually see it on a flat piece of paper. Poetry can then be viewed as a path (maybe the quickest, maybe the most scenic) to get a idea or emotion from point A to point B, from one human to another. And, like any other map, poetry will always fall a little short of actually standing in those mental woods and walking, but all we can do is try to create the best map so that others may be able to walk some similar path for themselves.

Thanks for reading.

One Reply to “Translation through Poetic Landscapes”

  1. Rich ideas here, and I’m excited to see where they take you. I love the physicality of that “little mailman” image, with his bulky crate. And, at the same time, both it and your sense of the “translational view” also had me thinking about whether they way synapses fire/work (even before I got to “map”). In practical terms, this makes me think again about the poetic mainstay technique of “juxtaposition” in terms of something more like a constellation – not placing two things together to synthesize a third so much as drawing a shape by translating multiple points of reference, perhaps. It’ll be interesting to see if that manifests in your own writing this semester – only if it sounds useful as a process or poetics, of course!

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