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September 19, 2013


Paired translations, like Wilbur's Brodsky, work best when there is a real collaboration and back-and-forth between the literal-renderer and the poetic-renderer, not just a poet working in one direction from a literal version. The problem we have with most contemporary verse translations is that few people have both the necessary mastery of another language and its idioms and literature *and* the ability to render a comparable experience in English verse; we get a lot of vaguely melodic paraphrase. I'm a participant, but I think Maxwell's Brodsky translations are really successful heirs of the Wilbur tradition. It's slow work though.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

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Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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