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« "Possession in Jordan, MN" [by G. Andrew Collins] | Main | Judy Gemini could go on singing [by David Lehman] »

June 09, 2014


Your comment about translation as a conversation with the dead reminded me of this little diary entry I wrote about how translation can be useful during bereavement. -- Edward Moran

When a friend suffers the loss of a loved one, I always suggest translation as a palliative, even if they haven't cracked a Latin text since high school, or their French won't get them within whiffing distance of a fromagerie. When Marianne Moore's mother died in 1947, for example, she abandoned English for a time and delved into the fables of La Fontaine, producing a classic translation that also helped assuage her grief. There are deep, mysterious connections between translation and the act of dying. Some folk (Christian Scientists and related ilk) even use the word "translated" (not euphemisms like "pass away" or "move on" to describe someone's passage from this world to the next). After all, doesn't "translation" have some connection with the Latin words "trans" and "latus" which have the connotation of "crossing to the other side"? (I also realize that translation has something to do with the word "traitor," but that's another story.)

Translation seems to fire up the brain cells that deal with grief and its resolution. When we translate, we are often at a loss for words, just as we are when it comes to expressing sympathy for another or addressing the aching void we have just experienced. Even if we are learning another language for the first time, the act of translating (even on a primary level) reminds us that language is still alive and pregnant with new meaning, reminds us that it (and the universe) are governed by rules that run deeper than just the grammatical prescriptions of schoolmarms. Being forced to grapple with an unfamiliar tongue during our season of grief reminds us that we are still capable of extracting meaning from the unfathomable blankness of the new grammar of solitude that we are experiencing.--Edward Moran, 2012

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


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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