My translation philosophy is equal parts Ezra Pound and Jim Henson. While Pound enjoins us to “make it new,” Henson’s Muppet skits encourage us to make it strange, to play the music in the words of Frank Zappa, “with a mustache on it” (no doubt alluding to Dali). Following Dan Remein’s provocative injunction for practicing “translation as betrayal of the proper” (“Auden, Translation, Betrayal: Radical Poetics and Translation from Old English.” Literature Compass 8.11 [2011], 822), I am seeking to create a dynamic admixture of voices, to celebrate a homogeneity of the conditions that produced the verse, to paint of palette that reveals the poetry as something new and now, relevant and resonant. By doing so, I hope to avoid paying homage to the false idol of interpretive authority. Translations are necessarily a reading of an original text — they can never produce the only possible reading. Again, Remein, “translating in a certain way could allow us to experience certain specifics of the poem’s ‘situation’ in a certain way” (818). This article is a powerful argument against reducing poetic and linguistic heterogeneity in Old English poetry to a untruthful and inaccurate dominant homogeneous experience. The queering and deformation Remein urges us towards can be achieved by manipulation of form and line, by switching the context of the familiar verses, and by re-discovering the minority language that best serves the poetry’s own minority status.

This program of translation still does not mean that anything is added—that what I translate is in fact on the page of the edition I am using. I am only trying to give a possibility for the remainder inherent in all language to escape. That I want to throw off the expectation, to make the text a little strange, does not mean I think the verse is silly, only unusual, and that it needs to be translated in an unusual way. This means that I recognize that the conditions of play are often extinguished by an approach dominated by its own seriousness, constrained by a presumption of Anglo-Saxons that only sang grimly sad songs there on the shores of frozen seas, that only composed verses to promote their faith in the exact same way we would recognize. There are many profound differences between us and these poets and their situations — some we will never understand fully, some are being discovered — that heterogeneity needs to be appreciated.

[I am in the process of revising the entirety of this site, and the conditions for torsion are foremost in my mind as I re-read my work.]

The entire statement can be read here.


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