Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday Morning and Translation

One of the blogs I subscribe to is the Words Without Borders blog, and today, a quick perusal of their website before I went to teach yielded two things I wanted to share with you all here at ITM.

First: I'm not the only person feeling inspired by Forster. Christopher Merrill has a post on the University of Iowa's writing program which he calls "Only Connect". An excerpt:

Literature works by subterranean means. Ideas migrate at the speed of thought, which for a writer in the act of composition means the speed of sound—syllable by syllable—if not the speed of light. And literary exchanges have the merit of launching new ideas into the cultural discourse.

This connects so well with some of the Deleuze and Guattari I've been reading over the past few weeks -- these rhizome networks of literature. One of the things I think, increasingly, is important, is the work of not simply literary critics, but truly literary scholars. Put differently: I don't think I'll ever understand The Wanderer as well as I did when I tried, after many years of writing about the poem, to actually write the poem, via translation.

Second: I had never heard of Doris Koreva until this morning. One of her poems, translated here, expresses for me the relationship between what Allen Mandelbaum called, in his Chelmaxioms "the-Reader and the-Read." The lines I found most intriguing:

The reader casts his shadow over the poem.

All possibilities bloom in language,
the mind hears but what it wants to
or what it fears.
Such hope for language -- for communication -- but simultaneously, such fear. However, Koreva suggests something in her poem I've always felt, though I don't think it made sense to me until this morning: Is there something about literature -- the writing or composition of text -- that is inherently hopeful? A leap of faith, even: faith in language, perhaps, but moreover -- faith in the possibility of communication?

cross posted at OEinNY

1 comment:

dan remein said...

Fantastic brief and provocative post.

I am certain that writing is an act of faith--and I mean faith in a way that is secularized. Hope might be construed as hope in the impossibility of the arrival of the Other. Is this communication? I am pretty sure I cannot grant that. For a number of reasons, as a poet, I am loath to think of language in terms of communication, but rather in terms of provocation. Heidegger has done a number on my thinking about language that would take some serious work to be reversed--and I am not sure how communication does not return us to the problem of the correspondences theory of truth (and indication a la Husserl).

But back to faith: I mean, faith in simply the audacity of putting two words together--on what basis can we suggest a relationship between any two words, or three words? Syntax is so tenuous! Semantics--even more so. This faith is the faith in writing--even in writing Beckettian texts for nothing--writing as "only" "biding time," is still an a descision to write as opposed to not writing, and that is an immense decision! What do we think we're doing?! Its ridiculous, anarchic, recklessly hopeful. So yes, the mechanism of faith without anything to have faith in or to hope for:

so, I don't think I'll ever understand The Wanderer as well as I did when I tried, after many years of writing about the poem, to actually write the poem, via translation. --exactly.

Perhaps we hope, to get away from the Heidiggerian-speak, like Edward Said, for viable alternatives...those subaltern currents you quote about. But how different is that really from hoping for the arrival of the Other?