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Wi the Haill Voice (2e)
25 poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky translated into Scots by Edwin Morgan
Translated by Edwin Morgan
Categories: 20th Century, Russian, Scottish, Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback 2e (100 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2016)
Forty-four years after their first publication, Edwin Morgan’s versions of the great twentieth-century Russian futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky are back in print. Wi the haill voice collects twenty-five of Morgan’s translations into Scots, accompanied by his own introduction and glossary.
Writing in a letter to Daniel Weissbort in 1971, Morgan explained: ‘I took up the translation of Mayakovsky primarily because I was strongly taken by his poetry and felt impelled to try to convey the quality and pleasure and power of his work to others. I felt I was sufficiently near his wavelength to understand him sympathetically, and in translation that is half the battle. But I soon discovered that the problems of making straight English versions of Mayakovsky are formidable, and it was almost as if the spirit of the language was against me. The Mayakovskian exclamatoriness, the abrupt changes of tone, the unusual mixture of fantasy, lyricism, and direct civic and moral concern – all seemed recalcitrant to the English medium and to English models. But with the use of Scots, I found that many of the problems quickly dissolved. It is possible to tap a Scottish tradition of both grotesque exaggeration and fantasy and of linguistic extraversion and dash that goes back through MacDiarmid, Burns, and Dunbar. And at the same time, it may be that the linking of the fantastic / wild / grotesque with the moral / political / social comes more easily to the Scottish than to the English poet. [...] Scots as a language can get closer than English to the “barbarian lyre” of the revolutionary spirit.’
Cover image: from El Lissitzky’s designs for Mayakovsky’s For the Voice.
Awards won by Edwin Morgan Winner, 2000 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
'The only translations of Mayakovsky that gave any real sense of his brilliance.'
Daniel Weissbort 'Edwin Morgan's translation of twent-five poems into Scots, now reissued after almost half a century, finesses one difficulty by substituting another. Wi Haill Voice gives Mayakovsky a shout from the streets without making him a Dickensian exercised in dialect - Scots provides the necessary sense of estrangement.'
William Logan, The New Criterion
Praise for Edwin Morgan 'distinctly and excitingly nonconformist [...] they stunningly convey the poet's love for Glasgow. The traditional structure is interjected with Scottish language and anecdotes, making it a thought-provoking read.'
'A broad celebration of one of the most lively and creative writers of his time'
Mike Ferguson, Stride Magazine
'For readers new to Morgan, it forms a perfect introduction, showcasing his fearless experimentation... For those who already know Morgan's work, this selection is a welcome romp of rediscovery. It offers a reminder that he masters every form - from sonnets to strict rhyme schemes with free rhythm to the disintegrating word curtains of some of his early concrete poems - and gilds them all with the humour and humanity that infuse his own effervescent voice.... He never shrinks from the darkness but the shimmering beauty of his words somehow makes it more bearable.'
Fiona Rintoul, The Herald
'Thank God, thank whatever all-seeing quick-witted deity you like, we have Edwin Morgan to show us how to live, and keep living..."pleasure" is nowhere strong enough to convey the joyous energy of his work.'
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