12 October 2009

One or four poems?

When a writer writes what should be the same poem in four different languages, are the products to be considered as only one poem translated three times (plus the original) or should they be considered four different poems? Translation theory tells us that they are four different poems, since each one is read within the context of different cultures. One of our followers gives us an insight into the making of the four poems, at the same time illuminating an issue lying at the heart of this blog, i.e., whether a language restricts or expands the possibilities of writing. Here is the relevant excerpt from the blog of Albert B. Casuga:

"The primary and necessarily the most ordinary medium of poetic expression, of course, is the poem’s sound/verbal system. The more melodious and sensible the verbal equipment of the language used, the sharper its edge in translating a thought into a palpable/real plane of experience.

"In this exercise, self-translation provided this writer with a limbering up that revealed intriguing discoveries. I found the Spanish version to have the most significant verbal devices that helped objectify/subjectify the putative lament ruing abandonment. I felt the lament’s tug more profoundly in the Ilocano version. I consider the English version a tad uninspired."

I wonder what would happen if the writer - as many other writers are now doing - mixes the four languages in the same poem. Will the pluses and minuses of each language neutralize each other, or will the whole become larger than its parts?

1 comment:

  1. Mixing the four languages in the same poem would be a tricky business. I did illustrate the dynamics of this process in a comment I made on your March 19, 2009 entry (Cassar on Guido Monte)where I blended poetic lines using the English, Spanish, Ilocano, and Filipino. I found the blending intriguing, but the resulting single "poem" sounded more amusing than I thought it would not be. It lacked the clarity and integrity that a good poem should have. Backtrack, and look at that comment again.

    But maybe I should give it the old college try. Why not?