Monday, 19 January 2015

The Oxopetra Elegies


That’s the next book in the bedside slot mentioned yesterday. Probably my favourites among the poems of Oddyseas Elytis, and this is a parallel text edition; Greek original verso and David Connolly’s excellent English translation recto. I bought a copy of this edition when it was first published in 1996, the year of Elytis’s death, but it has disappeared; another case of my trusting someone who claimed to be my friend but lied to me and stole from me. When I couldn’t find it a year or so ago David kindly sent me a new copy, and I’ve been studying his translations, and what Elytis has said about translating his poetry, because just recently someone who can’t have had the slightest idea what she was asking nevertheless asked me to translate into English Elytis’s strange and difficult poem ‘Marina of the Rocks’. To my dismay I found that one is supposed to translate Elytis’s poetry almost word-for-word: a process that usually produces nonsense (just for fun, try ‘Google Translate’ on any poem) and certainly does in the case of ‘Marina of the Rocks.’

‘Supposed to…’? Well yes, really: David was privileged to discuss this personally with Elytis, and that’s what he was told, so that’s from the horse’s mouth. And it’s what David did, brilliantly, with the Oxopetra Elegies. I just can’t do that with ‘Marina of the Rocks’, though I’ve struggled for a month. Finally I had to submit what I’ve called, remembering Robert Lowell, an ‘Imitation’.

It’s done and sent off, so I can now, with relief, put the Oxopetra Elegies back in the poetry shelves. But only for a rest: like all good poetry, these are something one can come back to again and again. They bear comparison with Rilke’s Duino Elegies.

No comments:

Post a Comment