— Interesting post by Brian Henry on that somewhat arrogantly named “Best American poetry” blog, concerning matters of translations, and how one often stays hooked on the first translation of a poet one has read. I, for example, have an unreasonable love for R.H. Blythe‘s haiku translations, remembering, or so I thought, exactly when — spring 1967 — I bought the 4 volumes — with borrowed money — and where — at the Galignani bookshop on rue de Rivoli in Paris. But now, pulling Volume One off the shelve, I note that the book I own, first published in 1949, is the sixteenth printing from 1968 — by which year I was living in the US & not in Paris. Via a note re importer in the back of the book, it would now seem that I must have bought the books in San Francisco in early 1968. Wow! How can this be: I see myself in Galignani’s in the spring of 1967 holding Blythe’s volumes in company of my friend David Eyre who had introduced me to the Blythe translations (but then it was maybe not in San Francisco in late January / early February 1968 that I bought them, but earlier in January when I was in Honolulu to be, as promised back in Paris in 1967, best man for David and Eva’s wedding.) What a quandary! What a silly anxiety this is producing now. And all I wanted to say was that despite Corman’s influence later on, and that of a number of more modernistic & sober haiku translators and workers, those Blythe versions are still my favorites. Which gets us back to Brian Henry’s post: you can read the full article here, and the opening paras right here below:
Adventures in Reading in Translation: Edvard Kocbek by Brian Henry
I wonder if this is true for others: the first book I read by a non-English-language poet often remains my favorite, even if the book is not his or her most popular, most acclaimed, or most widely available. This is true for me with Yannis Ritsos, whose work I first encountered in Late Into the Night, published by Oberlin College Press and translated by Martin McKinsey, not Edmund Keeley / Princeton UP / Ecco. And with Paul Celan, whom I first read in Breathturn, published by Sun & Moon and translated by Pierre Joris, not Michael Hamburger / John Felstiner / Persea / Norton. I bought these books because I was in the habit then of buying every book published by Sun & Moon and Oberlin College Press that I could find, and didn’t feel any need to locate “the best” translation, though I naturally moved onto other translations.
— In Ithaca New York, today, having spent time yesterday with Dug Rothschild on his Troy-to-Ithaca walk, oar on shoulder — or taken up for a homer-like swing just in front of ole Homer’s mailbox in Homer, NY (see photo). Will be on the road for a couple more days — Friday night Nicole & I will read at the Boston Poetry Marathon (full details tomorrow.)