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Credit the Translator Please!

My special interest is Chinese poetry of the T'ang Dynasty. But if my interest was in Latvian or Cost Rican or Polynesian poetry, I would be just as dismayed by the online absence of the names of translators. Sometimes I find translator names given at online poetry sites, but mostly I don't. This is true all over the internet. Why does it matter?

Think of this parallel.

The recordings of a concerto or symphony by this or that composer to which you listen are always translations or interpretations, no two of which are the same. A Beethoven piano concerto performed by Arthur Rubinstein is not the same concerto played by Vladimir Horowitz. And a concerto performed by Horowitz is definitely not the same as the one your 12-yr-old niece plays. There exists no single, repeatable, same translation of a work of classical music, The interpreter (conductor, soloist, orchestra) profoundly collaborates with the composer and attains a performance that not even the composer might approve or prefer or even recognize.

Just so, the translator of a poem by Li Po or Tu Fu is interpreting a Chinese score/text written 1,200 years ago that is historically, culturally, environmentally, and linguistically foreign even to modern-day inhabitants of China.The interpretation of any of these poems depends almost as much on the poem's translator as on the original poet. The result in English of a translation by Burton Watson, David Hinton, Arthur Waley, Kenneth Rexroth, Sam Hamill, and all others do not produce an identical xerox copy of the original that can be designated as most faithful or best .Each translation represents the translator's understanding of Chinese, of English, of the original poet's sensibility & style, of the poet's personal & historic outlook, the poet's poetic skills, etc. And most importantly, the translator must himself possess a first-rate poetic ear and have studied English poetics and practiced writing poems in English. After all, the translation will be published in English to readers of English poetry, very few of whom will read or speak Chinese.

Test me. Select a poem in translation that you like (from Chinese, German, Nigerian, whatever) and find 4-5 English translations of it. Compare them one to the others, and you'll never again think that one version of a translated poem is like any other.