collection

Poetry & Translation

“As a poet, translation gives me the opportunity to engage directly with poetic strategies different from my own. In attempting to recreate them in English, I am also practicing them. It is a chance to work in the ‘clay’ of poetic language with my ego, experiences, preferences, left in the wardrobe closet,” says former Academy Chancellor and translator Marilyn Hacker. Whether it’s for National Translation Month in September or any time of the year, learn more about the art of the translation with this collection of texts, videos, poems, and more.

And if you’re a translator, learn more about how to submit to our translation prizes, the Ambroggio Prize, the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, and the Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Awards.

browse poems in translation

poem

Elegy in Translation

            I was trying to wave to you but you wouldn’t wave back
                                    —The Be Good Tanyas

Forgive me my deafness now for your name on others’ lips:
each mouth gathers then opens & I search for the wave

the fluke of their tongues should make with the blow
of your name in that mild darkness I recognize but cannot

explain as the same oblivious blue of Hold the conch to your ear
& hearing the highway loud & clear. My hands are bloated

with the name signs of my kin who have waited for water
to reach their ears. Or oil; grease from a fox with the gall

of a hare, bear fat melted in hot piss, peach kernels fried
in hog lard & tucked along the cavum for a cure; a sharp stick

even, a jagged rock; anything to wedge down deep to the drum
inside that kept them walking away from wives—old

or otherwise—& the tales they tell about our being too broken
for their bearing, & yet they bear on. Down. Forgive me

my deafness for my own sound, how I mistook it for a wound
you could heal. Forgive me the places your wasted words

could have saved us from going had I heard you with my hands.
I saw Joni live & still thought a gay pair of guys put up a parking lot.

How could I have known You are worthless sounds like Should we
do this, even with the lights on. You let me say Yes. So what

if Johnny Nash can see clearly now Lorraine is gone—I only wanted
to hear the sea. The audiologist asks Does it seem like you’re under

water? & I think only of your name. I thought it was you
after I love, but memory proves nothing save my certainty—

the chapped round of your mouth was the same shape while at rest
or in thought or blowing smoke, & all three make a similar sound:
Meg Day
2018
lesson plan

Incredible Bridges: “Translation for Mamá” by Richard Blanco

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
This lesson plan is part of the series “Incredible Bridges: Poets Creating Community," a project developed by the Academy of American Poets in partnership with EDSITEment, the educational website of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), during the NEH’s 50th anniversary year-long celebration.

Funded by the NEH, “Incredible Bridges” responds to the NEH’s initiative The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to demonstrate and enhance the role of the humanities in public life.


poem

Translation Class

—Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo"

The word’s augapfel
meaning eyeballs or “apple of the eye.”

But we only have the torso of a god here.
Apollo’s abs! Not, the poet writes, his

“unknowable” head. Not his unseen immortal gaze.

But a god might materialize within a sudden turn of phrase:
          those startled eyes,

arms and legs: sudden lamp-bright rays
               from inside the bruised translucence of stone.

Then a “proud manhood” flaring—don’t look away!
See, this god doesn’t lust after your little life—or care.
It is his own Apollonian god-ness insisting on itself,
handfuls of gems shaken over that chest, blinding

us. Blinking as each rendering slides its straitjacket
over him as he spins, rocketing back into monument.

Translation is about freeing ourselves from our selves:
That older voice, from the back.

Long ago Dresden, she sat, a kid in kitchen lamplight,
a decade after nonstop bombs obliterated each strasse:
                    homes, hospitals, museums, towers: rotating

beams. She cut open an apple with a pocketknife,
watching its heart break into a five-pointed star,
                                   that children then called augapfel.

Apple on a plate, Apollo’s petaled eye…
Searchlights rake each word’s perfect precedence.
There is nothing here that does not see you—

your word-history in ego’s funny destruction,
in linguist-selfies, a drone’s drone-sight. So follow Apollo now!
                              @ hashtag: You Must Change Your Life.

Carol Muske-Dukes
2018
lesson plan

Poetry in Translation

Poetry in Translation, a unit created by Queens teacher Carol McCarthy, draws on the unique abilities of her multicultural classroom. In her introductory lesson plan, Carol calls upon her students to investigate poetry through the lens of their individual cultural backgrounds. Students translate the work of poets from their native country or ethnic heritage, then write and translate their own poems. Students probe poetry in translation in other lessons as well, including "Translating Poets of the Holocaust Era," "Haiku," "Women in Poetry," and a comparative lesson focusing on two translations of Beowulf. Against this backdrop, Carol employs a series of classroom learning activities and Internet research that helps each student to find their place in a poetic tradition.

Unit Length: 8 Class Periods