Well, in some ways I’m back to translations. Kind of. I just wanted to take a moment to give light to all of the wonderful translations that have enriched the Artful Dodge through the years. One of the first things I do when I open up a copy of the Dodge is flip to one of the translation sections to read the stories of how those translations came to be. I find that the journey to the poetry is often just as captivating as the poems themselves. Not only does the introduction give cultural context to the poetry, it also provides a narrative to let all of us readers know how far these poems and stories have traveled.
For example, I thought Carolyne Wright’s introduction to her translations of three Bengali poets was pretty groovy. I was transported out of my own head and into the “Sealdah Station, [Kolkata’s] main commuter train depot” where “the driver made a turn into an alley across the way and then crept slowly, through the crowds of pedestrians, under a high brick archway into a sprawling market.” I don’t want to say it literally made me imagine being in the context that these poems were written, but the intro definitely gave me a segue into a place where I could really appreciate the poems. Wright’s narrative of first meeting Gita Chattopadhyay perfectly sets the scene for the poems as they are written by a woman living in a “house that had first been constructed in the 1830s” for her entire life despite the ongoing evolution and bustle going on outside her doors. But Chattopadhyay’s isolation from modern demands also influences her work as she explains that “Because of what has been left to me by my ancestors, there’s no pressure to earn a living from writing. I can write about social and political issues that may go outside the mainstream, not worrying about the need for sales” and that “If I were influenced by the idea of being popular, […] I couldn’t keep high standards.”
This set of translations, among others, was featured in AD 46/47.
Although Wright’s intro to the Bengali poets isn’t currently on the Dodge’s website, many other translation intros are, and are worth a read-through if you’re interested not only in physical place, but cultural landscape as well. You can find them here:
—autumn, Editorial Asst.—