Saturday, 13 February 2010

Translating as palimpsest

One of the modules on my MA was 'Translation and adaptation'. I don't have any other languages fluently enough for translating so I was pleased to find that working from literal translations was acceptable because there was a project I really wanted to do. I had heard, through someone who regularly attends 'Buzzwords', of the French trench newspapers of WWI and the poetry printed in them. It was WWI poetry from Sassoon and Owen that first got me into poetry from school so these intrigued me; we know so little of other nations' war poetry. When I started to look into it, I found the poems incredibly moving because they were ordinary soldiers, trying to make sense of the hell they were in through poetry. I was very aware of the emotional burden and responsibility of doing anything with the poems: many of the men who wrote them would not have survived the trenches and the appalling circumstances they were living in makes the existence of the trench newspapers a truly amazing testament of the human impulse to be heard.

I don't want to recap the whole project here but I loved doing it and found the experience deepened my understanding both of that history and of creative motivation. I am delighted that the project now has a new life beyond the university archive as it has been made into an internet radio programme. If you're interested, you can listen to it here: Trench Poetry from WWI

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