To the Rogue Translator: Do Not Wait for the Translation Angel

SOLILOQUY OF THE ROGUE TRANSLATOR

No, I’ve never been jailed for my ideas
      or filmed while exploring an open fish stall
in a skirt-trenchcoat.


However, like Tantalus, I crave elusive fruit –
out of reach – as I set these words on a page –


or like Prometheus, I translate fire
       from one language to kindle


syllable-flames in a fledgling wind.
Someone will be angry


        because I thirst. Someone will ask,
why live in a realm of fiery tongues – of rogue

                       translations.

I shall greet you in your mother tongue
as I mingle in lexical spaces
       with diacritics, acute or grave –


a mystical triptych of integrity, an ethos of labor,
with lavish grace from above.


          Do not wait for me, dear reader,
in this maze of transparencies.

ON THE EXISTENCE OF TRANSLATION ANGELS,
OR AN INTERVIEW WITH A POET AND HER ROGUE TRANSLATOR

Where do you find your inspiration?

Poet: I wait for the translation angel to show up.

Rogue Translator: There is no translation angel.
 

Please explain the meaning of your poem, The Rogue Translator.

Poet: It dances at the limits of cultural dynamism.

Rogue Translator: It satirizes attempts at formal equivalence.


Why did you choose the word, rogue?


Poet:  The notion of bad translation was playing.


Rogue Translator: The translation was delinquent.
 

Please clarify your idea of a good translation.

Poet:  The good translation is not bad. 


Rogue Translator:  The bad translation is not good.


What advice can you offer to novice translators?

Poet:  Pay close attention to music and meaning, not merely syntax.

Rogue Translator:  Never wait for a translation angel

              to render everything transparent. 

EPILOQUE: THE TRANSLATION ANGEL SPEAKS

I shall greet you, my love, in your mother tongue
as I mingle in the spaces among diacritics, acute or grave,
triple-winged: judiciousness, ethic of labor, grace.
Do not wait for me.

Karen An-hwei Lee's recent poetry collections are Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004). She also authored a novel, Sonata in K (Ellipsis 2017). Lee currently lives in San Diego, where she serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.