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Poetry translation

What is “translation theory”? It is and is not a new field! Translation and tower of Babel are considered to be the same age but Modern Language Association International Bibliography only started to introduce translation as a separate entry since 1983.

Roman Jakobson believes that the field of contemporary translation should be broken down into three areas: Intralingual translation, rewording of signs of a language with sings in the same language; Interlingual translation, interpreting signs of a language into other signs of another language; and intersemiotic translation, transfer of signs from one language to non-verbal sign system (from language into art or music).

Munday (2001) said, “the word translation itself has numerous meanings: It can refer to the general subject field, the product (the text that has been translated) or the process (the act of producing translation, otherwise known as translating)”.

Translation is regarded as a bridge through which different cultures can get closer together (Niknasab & Pishbin, 2011).

Newmark (1988) believes that “translation is representing the meaning of a text into another language regarding the author’s intention.”

Literary translation has always been a demanding act especially poetry translation which is complicated and wide-ranging and can have vast effects on real world mostly because of its cultural aspects. The goal of this study is to shed more light on this field of translation, but also to seek out what strategies have been used more frequently to translate poetry.

A most recent expressed goal amongst recent English-language translators is that a translation should reflect the meaning of the source poem but should also be represented as “an original text” in the receptor language (Oppenheimer 1996).

In 1970s two books on general models of poetry translation were published by Lefevere (1975) and De Beaugrande (1978). However, these were written before the late-1980s shift in translation studies which believed translation is not only a textual act but also a psychological and social one; Since then no book-length studies in English has been written on overviewing poetry translation under a single narrative arch.

Poetry translation has always been one of the main dilemmas a translator has yet to overcome because of the great tension between form and content and because there are obstacles such as rhyme rhythm, meter, etc. Due to the challenges in literary translation there have always been disagreements about the methods used in poetry translation. The main focus of the present research is to find the most frequently used strategies presented by Lefevere (1975) in translating poems originally written by Forough Farrokhzad. The researcger attempts to investigate three translations of Farrokhzad’s poems done by Wolpe, Kessler and Banani, and Salami.

Andre Lefevere (1975) is a famous scholar who has some words on poetry translation. Below is a list of the comprehensive modern strategies, he believes translators often use in their poetry translations:

1. Phonemic Translation: Reproducing the source text sound effects in the target language.

2. Literal Translation: Word for word translation

3. Metrical Translation: Reproducing the source text meter

4. Verse to Prose Translation: Distorting the sense, communicative values and syntax of source text

5. Rhymed Translation: Transferring the rhyme of the original poem into the target language

6. Blank/Free Verse translation: Finding just the proper equivalents in the target language with a proper semantic result

7. Interpretation: Version and Imitation. Version occurs when the absence of source language text is retained and the form is changed

He (1991) also writes about the existence of a continuum between “semantic” and “communicative” translation. Any translation can be “more, or less semantic; more, or less, communicative; even a particular section or sentence can be treated more communicatively or less semantically both seeking an “equivalent effect”.

Lefevere (1975) views poetry as a unified context in which the form, content and aesthetic issues are closely associated but at the same time all of the issues have their own special values. He introduces a number of methods for translation of poetry: phonological translation, literal translation, rhythmic translation, translation into prose, translation into rhymed poetry, translation into poetry without rhyme, and interpretive translation. He states that in the past, most translators translated poetry into rhymed poetry but today they have rendered poetry translation into prose. He also added that some translators translate only the meaning at the price of the form but sometimes translators get help from a poet to create a complete new work.

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In a paper called “A Study of Strategies Used by Persian and English Translators while Translating Nima Yushij’s Poems from Persian into English Based on Lefevere’s (1975) Model” Sina Khosravi applies Lefevere’s seven proposed strategies on the English translations of poems written by Nima Yushij, a contemporary Persian poet. The aim is to find out if there are any significant differences in applying Lefevere’s strategies among male and female, native and non-native translators. The corpus of the study contains poems originally written by Yushij which are translated by three translators. After analyzing the data the researcher arrives at the conclusion that there were significant differences in using the strategies among three translators and also among male and female translators but there were not any significant differences between English native translator and Persian native translators in applying the strategies.

Forouzan Dehbashi Sharif and Ramin Yarmohamadi Khameneh (2015) propose a model for the comparison of translations based on Lefevere’s theory and Vahid Dastjerdi’s model (2008). Due to the analysis based on Lefevere’s theory and the practical model of poetry translation by Dastjerdi (2008), researchers have proposed a model for the analysis of selected poems and comparing the performance of translators.

Nguyễn Thị Diệu Thuý (2017) conducted a research on poetry translation to find out the translation strategies applied to translate the poems in the poetry collection Love & Misadventure written by Lang Leav, concerning André Lefevere’s seven strategies (1975), and subsequently drew some lessons about poetry translation from English into Vietnamese. The researcher obtained the data from 65 English-written poems and their Vietnamese translated versions in the bilingual book Love & Misadventure – Yêu là thương hay vận rủi by means of document observation. The theoretical model used was seven strategies for translating poetry devised by André Lefevere (1975). The researcher opted for a qualitative approach, and the data were analysed descriptively. The findings showed that the translator applied three out of seven strategies proposed by Lefevere which were metrical translation, rhymed translation, and blank verse translation. In addition, blank verse translation was the most frequently used strategy, followed by metrical translation and rhymed translation.

Zuchridin Suryawinata (1982) believes that a “literary translation causes the translator to face linguistic, literary and aesthetic, and socio-cultural problems.” (Hariyanto, Sugeng. (2000). The Implication of Culture on Translation Theory and Practice 1.)

Literary translation has always been the most problematic and complicated area in the field of translation studies. Not many translators are capable of translating poetry and as they are aware of this matter they prefer to leave poetry translation to the translators who are poets themselves as well. Even those who are not translators might often have an opinion on this matter. “What gets lost in translation is poetry” (cited in Baker, 1998). Even if the translator has a deep knowledge of the source text (SL) it would not guarantee his/her ability to create a weighty reproduction of the source text. This is due to the high cultural prestige of poetry that according to Jakobson (1959) one needs time and creativity to find the best equivalent; Jakobson believes that “Poetry cannot be translated and a creative transposition approach is a must rather than translation.” (cited in venuti, 2000, p.118). Even some words or verses might be difficult to translate or untranslatable because there are cultural and linguistic differences between languages.

Poetry translation has always been one of the main dilemmas a translator has yet to overcome because there are obstacles such as rhyme, rhythm, meter, etc. because these are the parts that create symbols, metaphors and the figurative language of the poetry which makes a poem rich and meaningful and translation it into other languages would probably end up demanding the structure and sometimes meaning of the whole poem. Some even expect the translators to produce a text that counts as a poem in the target language (TL) as a result of translating a poem. This might be the reason of turning some poetry translations into a complete different poem. Transferring the original style and figurative traits of the poems is the hardest part of poetry translation. Because it is evident that emotions should be preserved as the hidden message of a poem. Any poetry translation will need attention to each of the various levels on which a poem functions. On the semantic level, a poem carries some message or statement about the real world or the author’s reaction to it and this is often considered the core which any translation must reproduce (cited in Mona Baker, 2001, p. 173). What should be preserved when translating poetry are the emotions, the invisible message of the poet, the uniqueness of the style in order to create the same effect in the target language as it is in the source. In fact, the translator should aim to arouse sentiment and to produce emotional effect (Georgieva, 1997). Scholars believe that poetry translation has its own significance amid literal translation and has beneficial outcomes because it is a way of communication between nations and introduces different cultures. A poetry written in a foreign language would grant translators the opportunity of choosing words and phrases more freely.

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Due to the challenges in literary translation there have always been disagreements about the methods used in poetry translation because of the linguistics differences and because it is severely tied to the culture and literary background of the source language. A translator should be able to either create a translation to help the reader access the original text or create a poem inspired by the original source text.

Moreover, the difference of opinions amongst translators in choosing form over content or vice versa had led to the production of many various methods and strategies in translating literary works. Therefore, the main reason that caused the present research to be initiated is to narrow down the methods presented by theorists and highlight the most frequently used strategies practiced by other translators to help the translating process with the above mentioned problems which can be served as a measure for translation assessment of poetic genre.

The main objective of the present study is to find out the most frequently used strategy in translating Farrokhzad’s poems according to Lefevere’s (1975) seven proposed strategies.

The present study was designed to answer the following questions:

1. According to Lefevere’s seven proposed strategies, which one(s) of these seven strategies had been applied in three English translations of Forough Farrokhzad’s selected poems?

2. Which one(s) of these strategies is the most frequent one used in the English translations of Forough Farrokhzad’s selected poems?

The definitions of the key terms will be discussed as needed in this section of the present study.

There are different definitions for translation in translation studies. According to the Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics ([DLTAL], 2002), translation consists of “rendering written language (the source language/SL) into another (the target language/TL), or the target language version that results from this process.

Newmark (1988) believes that “translation is representing the meaning of a text into another language regarding the author’s intention.”

Munday (2001) said, “the word translation itself has numerous meanings: It can refer to the general subject field, the product (the text that has been translated) or the process (the act of producing translation, otherwise known as translating)”.

Translation is regarded as a bridge through which different cultures can get closer together (Niknasab & Pishbin, 2011).

Oxford English Dictionaries (2010) define poetry as a literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm.

Poetry can be defined as a means to express a nation’s feelings and attitudes (Niknasab & Pishbin, 2011).

Mill (1833) believes that poetry is truth and it uses the truth to paint the human soul truly. He also says that Great poets are often proverbially ignorant of life. They got their knowledge of life by observing themselves. they have found within them one highly delicate and sensitive specimen of human nature, on which the laws of emotion are written in large characters, such as can be read off without much study.

The word “Strategy” refers to procedures that are used to solve a problem a translator encounters in translating a text or a segment of it. In translation studies many scholars have presented different types of strategies for poetry translation including different types of views. For example Holmes (1988, p.25) suggests four types of strategies to translate the verse: Mimetic, Analogical, Organic and Deviant.

Jones (1989) also presents four levels of strategies for poetry translation: Literal translation, Approximation, Adaptation, Imitation.

The way to think about blank verse is to view it as a compromise between rhyming metrical verse on the one hand and free verse on the other. A poet will realize that blank verse is something more than a halfway house between rhyme and open form. It has characteristics that give it a unique set of capabilities, setting it apart from these alternatives. It is not a lite version of formalist poetry nor a free verse in a coat and tie. Even if the basic content is reproduced, the overall effect will change especially in relation to tone. (cited in Shaw, Blank verse: a guide to its history and use, 2007, p. 3)

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Abrams (1993) mentions that blank verse is five-stress iambic verse which is unrhymed. hence, the term “blank” is closest to the natural rhythms of English speech and it also is flexible and adaptive to diverse levels of discourse which are the reasons that many poets has used this form of poetry in the last few years.

Andre Alphonos Lefevere (1945-1996) was a translation theorist. His most important contribution is in comparative literary studies. He believed that the culture is the operational “unit” of translation. Lefever (1975) proposed seven strategies in the field of poetry translation as follows: Phonemic translation, Literal translation, Metrical translation, poetry into pros translation, Rhymed translation, Blank/free translation, verse translation, Interpretation.

Forough Farrokhzd (1934-1967) was an influential Iranian poet and film director. She was a controversial modernist poet and an iconoclast, writing from a female point of view. Her published books are as followed: Another Birth, Let Us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season, The Captive, Rebellion, The Wall, Bride of Acacias: Selected poems, If I Were God.

The researcher believes that there is a great tension between form and content in translating literary texts specially poetry and the act of literary translation is indeed a challenging act in which the translator’s main concern is whether to prefer the form over the content or vice versa. In fact, translating poetry is a controversial issue and there is a major debate on this challenging task in the field of translation studies. Some scholars believe that the difficulty of translating literary texts stems from the conflict between form and content and also high figurative language of poetry. These unique features of literary texts suggests that conducting research on translating these types of texts could be of utmost importance and the results could give translators a real insight into how to deal with the difficulties discussed.

Few studies have been done on Lefevere’s translation strategies and the best strategy to be used in poetry translation which made the researcher into thinking that the results would be of help to those interested in translating poetry. Also not many research had been done on Farrokhzad’s poems which the researcher thinks have had a huge impact on poetry and especially Persian literature.

the main goal of this research is to provide the translators with an easier yet more efficient way of translating figurative language. The researcher hopes that the comparison of the strategies used in three translations of Farrokhzad’s poems would give the perfect solution to this problem.

The researcher attempts to investigate three English translations of Forough Farrokhzad’s poems translated by Wolpe, Kessler & Banani, and Salami according to Lefeveres (1975) seven proposed strategies for poetry translation.

The findings of this study can be beneficial to various organizations such as language institutes, departments of translation in universities, etc. In addition to organizations mentioned above, the research can also be used by individuals including: researchers who are seeking to replicate this study (with other languages involved) for further findings, literary translators (either those translating from English to Persian or those translating from Persian to English), students of the field translation studies, etc

This study is limitted to the poems written originally by Forough Farrokhzad and its three English translations by Wolpe, Kessler & Banani, and Salami and investigates the strategies used in translating blank verses.

A limitation of this study was that the researcher had a truly hard time finding the publications of English translations of Farrokhzad’s poems in Iran and it was even harder to purchase them from international websites. Even though there were some translations done that could be found on personal websites, the researcher prefered not to use them due to them not being professional and published translations.

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