Thursday, June 3, 2021

Free Translation

Coleridge liked the idea of a poem
Impossible to translate into words,
Even in terms of the poem’s own language.

Tsvetaeva, on the other hand,
Valorized the poem that could be transformed
Into any other language or age

And yet lose nothing, least of all then.
Some people lean into the wind, and some
Incline to running along, racing it.

You don’t need any more definitions
Of the perfect poem. Piled definitions
Tend to cause a reader constipation,

And as for reason, they’re no better than
Proverbs, pitched lean-tos of contradictions.
A dictum, at best, serves as compass point

Indicating an extreme direction
Vanishing beyond its own horizon.
North’s only the pole where there’s no more north,

South’s only where you won’t find any south.
Tian wrote of Tao Yuanming how Song scribes
Worked hard to suppress disliked variants.

She then displayed variants like tchotchkes
On a dusty table for selection
In translation. You may choose among them.

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