Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Inverse Translation Project: top picks for 2013



Translation #4: Inverse by Boris Zakic

When a new year comes, we greet it by looking back. Everyone is posting their top picks for favorite books, best movies, and edgy music from 2013. Because everyone has different lists, these picks become the harsh reminder that I missed out on so much in 2013! But, of course the more I look back, the more I’ll miss out on what’s right in front of me. It’s time to look on to 2014.

I subscribe to many literary review email updates, one of which is Boston Review. Their new year header read “Poetry Matters: the 20 Top Poems of 2013” which you can read here. Okay, so it’s not an entirely accurate headline because they actually are posting the “most-read” poems on their website as opposed to giving it a vote. But either way there are some gems in here.

Even I get caught up looking back. But I’ve decided to also take these poems forward into 2014. I’m going to do what’s called an “inverse translation” on ten of these poems. This is an English-to-English rendering, where I write the opposite word, phrase, or sentiment of a poem to create something entirely different. I’m not doing this because I think I can improve upon these original poems. I do it to honor these poems. I rewrite poems because it means I get to work intimately with the work, which helps me better understand the authors’ intent, and also gives me the space to create something new. I invite anyone who wants to join in the fun to inverse translate these original poems, mistranslate my poems, or even pick your own top 5 and mistranslate those. I’d love to see how others interpret or purposely misinterpret them.

Check out the inverse translations of Boston Review’s Top 20 right here.

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