10 February 2006

Modern Poetry in Translation

'Poetry is less and less a prisoner of its own language . . . it is a universal language of understanding, coherent behind the many languages, in which we can all hope to meet.' (Ted Hughes)
On the aims and heritage of the series Modern Poetry in Translation, David Constantine has written: 'The hallmark of our age seems to be instability and ferment, the voluntary and enforced movement of large numbers of people, over Europe and worldwide. People moving with their languages. In that context translation must matter more and more. We shall look for the poets who are capable of telling us what life is like now with so much in flux and underway for good or ill. We shall try to give access to voices that need it and merit it. Poetry and translation will be in alliance, to that end. And we believe, like Hughes and Weissbort in the 1960s, that the shock of the foreign is vitally necessary to poets whose mother tongue is English. In Britain we risk becoming parochial and, indeed, xenophobic, step by step with the march of English towards supremacy among the languages of the world. The notion that everybody speaks English, or ought to, damages us even more than it insults everyone else.'