Dan Disney teaches in the English Literature Program at Sogang University (Seoul). He is the author of and then when the (John Leonard Press 2011), and is currently writing a book of villanelles and a collection of essays on the sublime.


Poetry—I too dislike translating it

Towards a Poetics of Versioneering

Don Paterson's Orpheus—a version of Rilke (2006) is an English-language text that transmutes Rilke's original Die Sonette an Orpheus (1922); this is a text that sets up exemplary modes of production for poet-versioneers. Re-reading Marianne Moore's poem 'Poetry' as enshrining affectivity as no less than categorical and generic, this paper agrees with Paterson's impulse to abandon the imperative for equivalence when translating poems by instead seeking to transmute (as Paterson puts it) the 'spirit of the original' source text. Re-reading sound as the echo of a poem's spirit, I speculate that versioneering requires close listening paired to a range of creative strategies (ekphrasis, technē, poeisis). This paper explores these processes through an examination of my own English-language versions of poems by Italian poet Alda Merini—versions which seek to capture and transmute the implication-filled sounds of the source texts.