It was good to welcome Ali Clarke from Surrey Hills Art who shared ideas about her Surrey Unearthed project and possible ways for MVP to become involved in this – one being the next anthology – and also her Travelling Reading Room project.
It was good too to welcome Maureen Jivani who thanked all in MVP for donations to CRY.
We shared refreshments and read out favourite poems. These were many and varied and included work by Anna Akhmatova, Carole Satyamurti and Jackie Kay as well as Brian Patten, Seamus Heaney and RS Thomas. There was work from the beginning of the last century and some written within the past year. There were solemn themes as well as joyous ones. There were German, Russian and American poems. There was a great interweaving and overlapping of many threads of themes.
Notes by Helen Overell.
Rose led a lively and thought-provoking discussion on whether poetry is lost in its translation. With so much to discuss on this theme, the group looked at why it is important for us as poets to read poetry in translation, to help understand and learn from poets of other backgrounds, cultures and languages. The group explored the difficulties of translation, the need to convey social context and the problems that arise when there is no literal translation for a particular word or phrase. Also, discussed were the difficulties in doing justice to the original rhythms and rhymes and whether or not this is possible and how much of this is necessary.
There was an interesting conversation regarding how poetry differs from prose and the problems arising for translation from poetry techniques such as rhyme, rhythm, imagery. Not forgetting the differences between languages in structure, idioms and style. The methods and challenges of poetry translation were considered, together with the modern practice of pairing poets with native speakers/linguists to collaborate on a final translated poem. For example, beginning with a literal translation as used in 'Modern Poetry in Translation' (the magazine started by Ted Hughes in 1965) and also by Sarah Maguire who founded the Poetry Translation Centre.
The group reflected on the depth and resonance of a poem and how this might be enfolded and expressed in a different language. Rose illustrated this point by providing the group with poems to read that had been written in French, German and Spanish and translations of these into English. In addition, further looking at poems translated from Russian and from Hungarian. At the same time, it was considered that the act of translating seems akin to building a bridge between different cultures and different times.
By discussion and reading of a number of poems with their translations, Rose provided the opportunity to enhance the group's appreciation of the complexities and pitfalls of the task. In conclusion, it seemed apparent that poetry is not necessarily lost in translation when the work is carried out with sufficient skill, care and sensitivity.
Poems considered that had been translated from the original language
Suggested further reading
'Centres of Cataclysm – Celebrating 50 years of Modern Poetry in Translation'
Edited by Sasha Dugdale and David and Helen Constantine, Bloodaxe Books, 2016
Notes by Sharon Williams.
The presentation from Heather provided a fascinating insight into the poetry by Ursula Askham Fanthorpe (UA Fanthorpe). Born in Kent 1929 and from a somewhat privileged background, she attended St Anne's College, Oxford then later taught at Cheltenham Ladies' College for 16 years. However, she felt unfulfilled in that role and only started writing poetry in 1974 whilst working as a medical receptionist at Burden Neurological Hospital, where she felt she had found her subject matter at last. A fascination with hospitals came about as a result of an accident when she rode her pedal cycle in Oxford. From the mid 1980's onwards UA Fanthorpe wrote prolifically and also took up residencies at Lancaster, Durham and Newcastle universities, as well as receiving many awards and honours such as the Cholmondeley Award (1993); first woman to be nominated for Professor of Poetry at Oxford (1995);CBE (2001) and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry (2003).
Heather explained to the group that she had only encountered the work of UA Fanthorpe four years ago and had been drawn to reading further. Heather's knowledge and enthusiasm provided a lively discussion on UA Fanthorpe's style of poetry which displays her humour, empathy for the outsider and a need to 'drop out' in order to find her voice.
The group read a diverse number of poems. The first poem For Saint Peter had been written by UA Fanthorpe in 1984 in a caravan in the grounds of Burden Neurological Hospital where she used to take her lunchbreaks. Next, the group read Casehistory: Alison (head injury) and then the List. These poems, all from her first anthology (Side Effects), reflect her fascination with the stories behind the medical case notes she handled in her job. They also express her connection with people who had no voice, and her sense of vocation in speaking for them through her poetry. The poems Earthed and Stanton Drew were then read, providing evidence of UA's love of England, its landscapes, archeology and history.
UA Fanthorpe regarded a poem as "a conversation between the poet and the reader", but some of her poems read as conversations in their own right. Knowing About Sonnets, in which UA wrily debunks literary criticism, was read as an example of this. The next poems explored by the group were BC: AD and Not the Millennium, both of which express UA Fanthorpe's Quaker faith. Her preoccupation with the futility of war was examined in the funny yet disturbing poem The Young Person's Guide To Arms, whilst Fanfare, a poem addressed to her mother following her death, considers the affections and tensions within the mother/daughter relationship. Rounding off an interesting evening, the final poem Atlas is one in which UA Fanthorpe illustrates the maintenance of everyday issues – such as undertaking household tasks and administration – as being the sensible side of love.
(All published by Peterloo or Enitharmon)
Notes by Sharon Williams.