Jul 18, 2008


I posted a couple of poems by one of my favorite poets, Forough Farrokhzad, and realized I had to delete them. The English translations were horrible. I've been spending time reading her work in Farsi (with the help of my mother). The magic of her writing doesn't always come through in the translations, at least the ones I have come across. So I refuse to post them.

Translating poetry is not easy. I realize this. But I was really upset to see such weak attempts. I feel poetry should only be translated by poets. And by those who really get the work of the poet. Or should poetry even be translated at all?

What also upset me was reading collections of Farrokhzad's work re-published after the Islamic revolution. The censorship was disgusting. They had taken some of her poems out, and in some pieces, omitted words and replaced them with ellipses. Seeing her work mutilated was devastating.

Translation is (often) not good to poetry. Neither is censorship. Words are sacred. Every damn syllable. Dis/mistranslating words is destructive, and in some cases, oppressive. Apparently this isn't fathomable, or worthy of care, to some people. I wish it were.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay i can't even imagine what they must sound like in farsi because even the bad translations seemed so beautiful to me

9:15 AM  
Blogger pomegranate queen said...

i know. i feel i was a little harsh on the matter. i was really moved in a whole different way reading them in the original language. but i'm sure there are good translations somewhere...i just haven't come across them yet. i suppose i'm on a mission of sorts now!

which ones have you read? online? anthologies?

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Alina Padilla said...

Poetry and literature also lose their petals when translated from Spanish to, say, English. I can relate (even though Farsi and Spanish don't come from the same laguage group). It's just not the same. It also depends on whose doing the translating and what their agenda is. It's such a shame though, that women and words can still pose such a threat. It's time to move on and embrace the power of the pen regardless of who is controlling the ink. Good luck!

7:21 PM  
Blogger sdg1844 said...

Sometimes there is just no translation for thoughts, feelings and experiences from a certain cultural context. From what I was able to read, they are gorgeous though.

11:51 AM  
Blogger kompoStella said...

the discussion of whether to translate poetry or not is never ending... and the fascination - with poetry; translation; transliteration; or the discussions - is (fortunately) similarly never ending.
my small chirp: let translations continue, i cannot fathom the world, my world, my being without all the poetry i had to read in translation.

thank you, Pomegranate Queen, for blogging.

12:55 PM  
Blogger pomegranate queen said...

thanks for your comment alina. embracing the power of the pen is so true.

it's true that it's important for translations to happen or else we wouldn't be able to connect with poetry (or just any kind of writing) from other languages...and i appreciate that. i just have conflicted feelings about it at times. especially when it comes to poetry.

11:32 PM  

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