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Faint Harps and Silver Voices
ISBN: 978 1 857543 55 1
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: June 2000
216 x 135 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Chez toi, Mahmout,
Musical soir─es - ─coute:
Flies mosquitoes flute,
And all the dancing girls are fleas.
Ibn Sharaf (Cairuan, d. 1068)
Christopher Middleton has been making translations for more than forty years: translation is part of his own poetic project, and he brings us with generous authority poetry from German, French, Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish and others, and from many ages - mediaeval to the present. His approach to each poet is 'appropriate': the general rule is to be true to the things that makes a poem unique, to avoid the temptation of 'translatorese' which applies familiar templates to all that is strange, difficult, challenging.
He divides Faint Harps into thematic sections. We find poems on memory by Goethe side by side with Rimbaud's 'Memoire', Oktay Rifat's 'Foxholes', and Ibn Guzman's 'The Crow'. In 'Loves' there are extraordinary poems by Laforgue, Khlebnikov and Al-Mushafi as well as an outrageous piece by Albert Glatigny, who introduced Verlaine to absinthe. In 'Art and Artifice' Kurt Schwitters's 'The Dada Rotator' stands suggestively by Apollinaire's 'The Palace of Thunder'; Brecht consorts with Ibn Zamrak (fourteenth century); Oskar Pastior with Eduard Moerike.
Middleton describes the book as 'something like a museum, but a museum that is informal, not monumental. If the metaphor be allowed at all, the museum houses culture-specific treasures, and it displays them in perspectives conducive to cross-cultural
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