Readdressing the Special Challenges of Translation

When talk turns to literary translation, poetry often prompts a hushed, respectful pause—uneasy silence of the sort commonly punctuated only by cricket song.
This presentation hopes to inject renewed vigor into the conversation.  It takes as springboard the occasion of the publication (in November 2017) of José Emilio Pacheco’s definitive translation in Spanish of T.S. Eliot’s Cuatro cuartetos—a much polished, elaborately annotated version Pacheco himself insisted on calling an aproximación.  This term—like Octavio Paz’s pet synonym: analogía—invites resumed reflection and fresh discourse on the craft of poetry translation and the art of versification itself.
Theoretical context here is provided by the postulates of poets, translators, and critics of the stature of Paz, Villaurrutia, Reyes, Borges, di Giovanni, Manguel, Eco, and Pacheco.  The resultant analysis readdresses the rarefied nature of fine poetry, which is always an indefinable something more than the form in which it is cast, the content with which it deals, and the message it exists to convey.  The best poetry translation, therefore, must consider all these fundamentals, while conserving verse’s ethereal air: that waft or sudden updraft of inspiration that first floats words into poetry form, then lifts a poem right off a page.

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Richard Avery Finks

Professor Richard Finks teaches at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, where he directs the Master’s Program in Translation and Interpretation in English and Spanish.
Born and raised in the United States, he did preparatory studies in England, undergraduate work in Missouri, and graduate study in Virginia. 
To date, he has over 40 years of experience as a professional educator primarily in the areas of language, literature, linguistics, and world culture.  He has delivered lectures at academic institutions and papers at professional conferences in numerous parts of the Mexican Republic as well as in the United States. 
His publications include six books, various professional articles in national and international journals, and a smattering of poetry in literary magazines and anthologies.  He is currently co-editing—with U.S.-based poet and poetry translator Dr. Perry Higman—a novel anthology of verse.