23 Dez

Western Michigan University / USA 2020

Pub­lika­tion in der amerikanis­chen Lit­er­aturzeitschrift: Trans­fer­ence
— A lit­er­ary jour­nal fea­tur­ing the art and process of translation


Six Poems by Safiye Can

Mar­ilya V. Reese North­ern Ari­zona Uni­ver­si­ty, marilya.veteto.reese@nau.edu

Safiye Can (sur­name pro­nounced John) is an award win­ning poet of Cir­cass­ian ori­gins born in Offen­bach, Ger­many whose work is appre­ci­at­ed for its fierce mes­sage of gender‑, species‑, environment‑, and eth­nic-equal­i­ty and for her fer­vent pro­mo-tion of the above­men­tioned areas of jus­tice as well as the sheer neces­si­ty of poet­ry in our lives. Not only are her poems perfor-mative—her read­ings before an audi­ence are char­ac­ter­ized by her the­atri­cal deliverance—but her poems are also fre­quent­ly visu­al works rem­i­nis­cent of con­crete poet­ry. Thus, it is incum-bent upon the trans­la­tor to con­vey Can’s lit­er­al form by pay­ing close atten­tion to the inter­play of each poem’s con­tent and its visu­al representation—its actu­al shape. For instance, Can casts an ear­li­er poem, not among those pub­lished here in trans­la­tion, in the shape of punc­tu­a­tion sym­bol to under­score its thrust. “Inte­gra­tion” is writ­ten as a Ger­man, backward‑S, ques­tion mark (that resem­bles the sym­bol for a law in legalese) and is one of Can’s most famous poems. In it, Can ques­tions the val­ue of inte­gra­tion; there­fore shape can be inter­pret­ed as con­vey­ing var­i­ous lev­els of mean­ing: the S in its nor­mal, front­ward direc-tion, might be viewed as Can’s brand­ing the poem with her ini-tial. Its iter­a­tion as a ques­tion mark might also be viewed as under­scor­ing the main mes­sage of the poem, which is to ques-tion any unnu­anced con­done­ment of some major­i­ty-imposed man­date requir­ing that immi­grants lose their cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty by merg­ing with their new society.

Mir­ror­ing the shape of the Ger­man orig­i­nal poem is not often fea­si­ble in Eng­lish, how­ev­er; in “Eter­nal Tri­al” the lines are arranged in Ger­man to resem­ble a Ger­man lawyer’s head-wear. Since this head­wear is not worn in U.S. courts, the poet and trans­la­tor opt­ed to change the form slight­ly to one more like a teardrop, since “plain­tiff” con­tains the same root as the word “plain­tive.”

Anoth­er lev­el to be acknowl­edged and hon­ored is Can‘s ges­tur­al meta­lan­guage; idioms and turns of phrase too are, ide­al­ly, to be accord­ed equal weight. As a trans­la­tor, keep­ing a non-Ger­man-speak­ing audi­ence in mind is impor­tant when choos­ing idioms so that Can’s abil­i­ty to be equal­ly at home in dis­parate reg­is­ters is evi­dent in trans­la­tion, too. The first stan­za of Can’s poem “Alas” reveals a dense­ly eru­dite reg­is­ter marked by brevi­ty, while the fifth stan­za con­veys a more down to earth feel of idiom-dri­ven solil­o­quy. The trans­la­tor must strive to bring the same bal­ance that was present in the orig­i­nal, wheth-er intel­lec­tu­al or col­lo­qui­al. Because the full-length poem (titled “Hey­hat,” an archa­ic Arabo-Tur­kic word express­ing some­thing lam­en­ta­ble) was six pages long, the poet and trans­la­tor agreed on sub­mis­sion of only the two stan­zas print­ed here as both stand-in and enticement.Equally impor­tant is a translator’s task of main­tain­ing for the reader’s men­tal ear the sound of Can’s above-men­tioned vocal cadences and emphases in the event that the poem ever be read aloud in Eng­lish. In any case, a read­er of Trans­fer­encemight be jux­ta­pos­ing the sound of the orig­i­nal with the sound of the trans­lat­ed text. Length of sen­tence in all the above poems was borne in mind at all times and adhered to when­ev­er pos­si­ble. In addi-tion, a thrilling chal­lenge to any trans­la­tor is main­tain­ing devic-es such allit­er­a­tion and bring­ing in ety­mo­log­i­cal­ly-linked words in Eng­lish and Ger­man when­ev­er it does not seem con­trived to do so—an exam­ple for both these prin­ci­ples can be seen in the three words unser bei­der Band in “Alas,” ren­dered here as “a bond for both.” Allit­er­a­tion? Check! Ety­mol­o­gy with­out arti-fice? Check! Source text: Can, Safiye. Rose und Nachti­gall, Wall­stein Ver­lag, 2020, pp. 11, 19, 48, 49, 47, 46.