Saturday, February 2, 2013

Merwin's Translations

At the new relaunched New Republic, I'm very glad to see a literary essay. There was the fear that all things non-political would become redundant. But Adam Plunkett has a fine if too-short review of W.S. Merwin's Selected Translations:
The central theme of Merwin’s poetry has always been the distance between experience and expression, between the felt joy of the sounds of words and the inadequacy of words to capture it. So it’s no surprise that he enjoys the foreignness of foreign languages, in which he can appreciate their sound without being distracted by sense. For Merwin, it is when “all the languages were foreign” that “the first/ year rose,” a Kingdom of heavenly sounds.
Plunkett does note that everything Merwin does sounds like Merwin first, and Henry Gould made a similar note in his Critical Flame review of the Wiman Mandelstam. A very high-profile critic once told me that Merwin is the greatest living English-language poet, when I said that it was in fact Geoffrey Hill.

I was and am still right about that.

What are your thoughts on Merwin?

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