Translating is a bridge--for me it is one that spans the Atlantic, that takes me into the Latin Quarter, into the narrow streets of Auvillar, into the harbor at Nantes, into the past, into the barracks where my poet, Benjamin Péret has just turned 16, and doesn't know what the year 1914 will bring, into apartment of Lucien Scheler, who is hiding Paul and Nusch Eluard in 1941. And my bridge back from French into English will introduce the humor and strangeness of Surrealism to an American audience, will introduce one of the world's great love poets--Paul Eluard--into wedding ceremonies in Napa, in Queens, bring the Trickster Péret into the solemn landscape of American poetry. The bridge has to be elegant and sleek and sturdy. It has to hold.
Sometimes I get discouraged. How can I translate the ineffable? What are these strange French building-blocks that even little schoolchildren know--but that trip me up? So I go slowly, and I ask many of my friends in Paris, in Auvillar, to comment and assist. Each work of translation has been vetted by my French friends who argue about the fine points--to whom each word matters deeply.
I'm translating my friend's poetry now, the work of Chantal Bizzini, a Parisian poet. There are very few women poets translated into English who are published by the major houses in France. Gallimard's most recent woman poet in translation is Emily Dickinson, for God's sake! I'll do my best for Chantal, and I have recruited a couple of other translators who are very skilled to help me--Brad Anderson and Darren Jackson. The project has already taken years, but hopefully we can wrap it up within the next year.
Black Widow Press has brought into print all the Dadaist and Surrealist poets in translation. They recently published my translation of Benjamin Péret's The Big Game. Hopefully they will take an interest in this new volume. I'll apply to the French government for a grant that they offer for translations of French books that have not been previously translated.
One of my New Year's resolutions is to finish translating the manuscript before the stroke of midnight tomorrow. I'm on the last poem! Bridge-building, syllable by syllable. Happy New Year! Bonne fête!
Causes Marilyn Kallet Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, ACLU, Amnesty International, Save Darfur.