October 8th, 2015


National poetry day

It's National Poetry Day, apparently. And this one is actually based in my own nation, rather than just one of those vague nation-of-internet special days.

As it happens, yesterday the internet was full of people being cross about a project to produce contemporary English translations of Shakespeare. Now my opinion is that contemporary English translations are just one part of the myriad ways that modern audiences respond to literary classics. Certainly it's possible for them to be awful, but the idea of reworking Shakespeare's words isn't inherently awful.

papersky wrote a sonnet expressing the general sentiment that changing Shakespeare is horrible. I commented that I really shouldn't try to write a response sonnet to express my alternative view, and certain people talked me into it instead of out of it. I'm rather charmed with the idea of an internet argument about Shakespeare in sonnet form, I must say.

So anyway, have a rather bad, dashed off hypertext sonnet about why I'm in favour of translating and reinterpreting Shakespeare:
True poetry is what survives translation,
An exiled Magyar poet told me once.
We're all time's exiles. Each one longs
To touch the past through each imagination,

But time excludes us from each treasured word –
No verse, no rhyme, no play remains pristine,
We'll never watch unchanged a perfect scene,
Nor ever hear what past play-goers heard.

Limelight's electric now and women act,
Some plays are filmed instead of staged,
The words, the sounds, the very rhymes have changed.
No fossil, this, to be preserved intact,

But living art in loving minds reborn,
Poetic truth translation can transform.
I do rather like writing poetry that responds to existing works. Pastiches and filks and metrical translations of poetry in other languages, too, but especially when someone writes a poem and I reply to it in similar style and metre.

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