Q: Most of your translations are into English. You're a native English speaker, right?

A: I translate mostly into English because, like it or not, it is the dominant language of the internet. As of this writing, 50-80% of all web pages are in English and more web searches are conducted in English than any other language (even though native English-speakers only comprise a tiny minority of all internet users.) The question of whether or not I'm a native English speaker is irrelevant.

Q: I have a particular poem in a particular language that I would love to see translated. Do you do requests?

A: It depends. If I like the poem enough, I'll probably be happy to oblige you. However, I do not do literal translations or "cribs," which means that if you're looking for someone to translate a little Baudelaire to help with your French homework, it's not going to happen. Likewise, I tend not to react very favorably to poets presenting their own work to me for translation.

Q: I, or an entity I represent, am compiling an anthology of translations of poetry from a particular author, region, language, era or some combination thereof. Would you be interested in contributing?

A: Almost certainly not. The entire point of this blog is to make translations of poetry freely available over the internet with the click of a mouse (and a few judicious google keywords.) The idea of money changing hands for access to these translations (which are, ultimately, a labor of love) is somewhat disturbing to me. I tried, once, to produce translations for a print anthology. But in the end the idea of me making money off of translations meant to honor other people's work just didn't sit well with me. Also, I don't like the idea of being told what to work on.

Still, feel free to ask. If I like the work enough, I could conceivably say yes, provided I retain the right to publish the result on this blog.

Q: You are posting material that is copyright-protected in my country. Please remove it.

A: If you ask nicely, and give me a good reason, sure. If not: this website is housed on an American server. If your country (like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Western Sahara and a few other countries) is not a signatory of the Berne convention, then you have no basis for your claim. Period. Otherwise, since this site is expressly non-commercial, the burden of proof will fall on you to demonstrate in court that my use of the material is non-educational and detrimental to its market value. If you can explain to me, convincingly, why this case can be made, I will remove the original poem from my site. If you want me to take my translation down, burden of proof falls on you to demonstrate that the translation itself is not fair use.

Q: Is that really your voice on all the recordings?

A: Yes.

Q: What are some of your favorite poems?

A: My favorite poem of all is probably Robert Frost's I Have Been One Acquainted With The Night, with James Wright's Saint Judas a close second. After that it's Saul Tchernichovsky's Hebrew poem Eagle and Ibn Khafaja's medieval Arabic Poem of the Mountain, both of which I have failed to translate to my satisfaction, probably because I like them too much.

Q: What's your favorite language?

A: Welsh wins hands down, with Arabic and Persian tying for second place.

Q: Why did you create this site?

A: Click here for a long answer

Q: You do know that you have an accent in some of these languages, right?

A: Yes, I know. While I do make an effort to adjust to the phonology of the various languages in question, the process is very often imperfect. This doesn't particularly bother me, though. In fact, from a certain point of view, it's good to have an audible reminder that I am not actually a native speaker of all of these poems' original languages, but a foreign speaker trying to experience them in the original and convey something of that experience to others.

Q: Why are you going through my underwear drawer?

A: I thought maybe your mom had misplaced my clothes with yours after I left her room last night.

1 comment:

  1. Dear A.Z.F,
    I'm amazed by your translations from Hebrew and German to English (all languages I speak fairly well). You have a real talent and sensitivity, both for the poetic and the linguistic (not to mention the historical and biblical). Are you at all familiar with Avraham Chalfi's poetry? I've always yearned to read his poems in English (particularly for my wife, who doesn't speak Hebrew very well). If this is something you might be interested in pursuing, please contact me at hassner@berkeley.edu. I'd be happy to sponsor your work on some of his poems, if that would be agreeable to you.


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