July 13, 2015

Wondering what Russian readers think of this...

NPR What translation did you use for the lyrics? Setting poems to music is itself a kind of translation. I wonder how you think of that process of transforming the work of a woman with whom you clearly feel strong kinship, but who didn't write in your language. by Ann Powers

'Most of the translations were done by Babette Deutsch and hers were the first ones I read. It was only after I'd exhausted that supply that I went searching for other translations — Babette only translated something like 15 or 16 of Anna's poems and I used 13 of them — I felt strongly that there was a unique marriage going on there. I've read a lot of other translations since and I still feel that way. Although Anna was in Russia, Babette in NYC, and to my knowledge they never met one another, there was something magical about what happened there between those two gals! Anna wrote in rhyme and Babette stayed true to that form, which lends itself to song far better than literal translation and made my job much easier. Both those ladies had the song in them and all I had to do was tune in to it and bring it on out all the way. And, yes, that too is a form of translation. I definitely felt a kinship with these ladies, that defies logic. The other five poems were translated by Lyn Coffin, who, although her style was very different and much more modern, somehow they all fit together. Lyn, like Babette, stayed true to the rhyme form, which I found to be surprisingly rare. I know there's a lot of concern among translators about altering the "true" meaning of the original poem, but, there's also something to be said for helping a poem remain a poem. Babette Deutsch and Lyn Coffin both did a beautiful job of that. Not an easy task!'

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