To my mind, a translation is nothing but a very close reading. Even before it ends up on paper, in the other language, the original text has already been filtered through the reader’s mind, thus altered according to their own understanding and sensitivity. Every translation is an interpretative act, much as it is a creative one. It requires a deep understanding of the original text and making certain linguistic choices meant to preserve the poet’s thoughts, feelings and ideas and have them rendered in an imaginative manner. It is a constant battle between what it is meant to be kept and what must be sacrificed, discarded in the process.
As a translator, I pay a great deal of attention to the quality of words and the way their layered meanings can be preserved in English. Romanian is more musical than English and has a ripeness that at times, has a hard time finding its place within the English language. When poetry is the game to play, moving through the original text is even so more challenging. Articulating the thought process of the poet first requires a close reading of the text and then, a familiarity with their language, artistic credo and manner of juggling with words.
Ștefan Manasia is an incredibly skilled language puppeteer. His poetry is visually impactful, and it begins in the mouth as it should. As a translator, I am always afraid I might fail to communicate his particular beauty of the language. I want to make sure the translation encompasses my excitement as a reader, as well as the richness and potent style of his poems. Apparently written in a simple manner, his poems require subordinating my own instincts as a translator, to the poet’s, thus preserving Manasia’s stylistically distinctive voice. His poems navigate mundane anxieties and his constant reference to cultural landmarks creates a sweet juxtaposition.
One pitfall in translating his poetry comes from the fact that I am a poet myself and therefore, cautious about not having my own poetic ego interfere with Manasia’s poetic message. I consciously seek accuracy and keep reminding myself it is my duty to make his poetry accessible and switch my creative voice from poet/writer to translator. The reader though never steps back.about the author