Where the Truth Lies in Translated Poetry: a Doris Kareva Poem in English

  • Miriam McIlfatrick Tallinn University
Keywords: translation, poetic effects, ambiguity


The article explores what the examination of original and translated poems side by side reveals about the nature of poetic communication. A Doris Kareva poem is analysed to determine how (rather than what) it means, identifying bonds of meaning created by sound and ambiguity as much as by syntactic or lexical relations. Two translations are analysed which suggest that a poem cannot be captured in the transferral of a graspable message or isolated lexicalised concepts, nor through the skilful handling of poetic devices. A third translation is proposed that aims to replicate the lexical, semantic and phonetic strands that constitute the coherence of the original while also generating ambiguity as a bound and binding feature of the new poem. Finally, the poem is posited as the presence of meaning, manifest in the effects it produces that make us attend to it as a poem.

This article was written with the support of the Estonian Science Foundation grant no. 8982 “Towards a Pragmatic Understanding of Translations in History"


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