1. Do you only ever translate from a language you know well? (If “No” Do you get help from a native speaker? )
No. Yes in such cases I prefer help of a native speaker.

2. Do you prefer to read other translations of the piece you are translating?  (a) Before starting  (b) After making a first draft  (c) Never ?      (b) If available.

3. Do you use a dictionary?  If “Yes”, do you use a foreign language/English dictionary or a dictionary in the source language itself?     Yes, both.

 4. Do you show your translation to anyone before sending it off ? Yes.

 5. Do you ever translate books or poems you don’t like?  If “Yes”, does this bother you when translating?             No.

 6. Do you work regular hours or in spurts ‘when you feel like it’?
More often in spurts.

 7. Do you use stimulants (e.g. coffee, alcohol, drugs) to ‘get started’?  No.

8. Could you give examples of particular difficulties in translating poems or prose from a specific language ? Have you any tips about how to get round these difficulties?
The most difficult thing, I have found is reproducing vernacular phrases and local folklore. In a poem by Rene Char I came across a phrase about the “ sun who fell in with the liar.” I discovered that this referred to a local folktale about the sun being an honest worker who was seduced away for his labours by a liar. I got this from the notes of a French language selection I was using to obtain originals. This was luck. Other ways are to read around, if necessary look at guidebooks, maps where the poet came from, and ask native speakers. The only real answer is to research. Even academics can have problems with this.

 The other is as a poet I wish to respect the grammar of English as much as that of the originals. For example, German has secondary verbs in at the end of a sentence. This is nonsensical in English. It plays havoc with reproducing rhymes etc, but it is silly to reproduce word order, unless there is a good reason for doing so.  Usually, I have to find an English equivalent. Sometimes this is easy. E.g when translating sonnets in the English sonnet there are ten syllables to a line, in Italian eleven, in French nine. In such cases, I don’t regard it as a violation of the original to translate a nine syllable sonnet line into a ten syllable English one, or to turn the poem into a free verse sonnet like one of Lowells but I will try to keep the turn after the shift from the first two quatrains into the final sestet.

9.  Do you see yourself as a ‘literal’ translator or a ‘free’ one?
More often a free translator. In translating poetry, my aim is to capture the poetry, not just to mirror the words, though these are still important to capture the styles of the original.

10. When translating rhymed poetry, do you try to imitate the rhyme scheme and metre? (a) always; (b) sometimes; (c) never ?
(b). It is not always possible to reproduce rhyme and meter, in such cases there are usually other motors such as imagery that carry the poem into English. So if I can’t reproduce the rhyme etc, I’m not too worried.      Graham Mummery 7/08/12

Note:    Graham Mummery lives in Sevenoaks, Kent. For a time he worked in investment banking and is now training to become a psychotherapist. His poems have appeared in various magazines and he is currently working on his first full collection. Other publications his poems appeared in include Gobby Deegans Riposte (Donut Press) as well as websites such as poetrypf.co,uk. His pamphlet, The Gods Have Become Diseases appeared in 2006.  He also has translated poems from French, German and Norwegian (Bokmal). Some of these have also appeared in magazines and the anthology of translations Over the Water (Hearing Eye Press). He collaborated in translating, from Romanian into English, Deepening the Mystery (EdituraSemene)  by Christiana Maria Purdescu, and presented some of Marin Sorescu’s poems at Poetry in Translation. His own poems have been translated into Romanian and broadcast on Radio Romania Culture as part of the poetry pRO project, others into German as part of the sister project Poetry tREnD. He was one of the British poets who attended the W-orte Festival at Ludwig-Maximillian University, Munich in 2010.  S.H.

 


 

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