Fetching Poems from Elsewhere: Ciaran Carson’s Translations of French Poetry


  • Miriam McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov Tallinna Ülikool, Humanitaarteaduste Instituut, Narva mnt. 29, 10120 Tallinn




Ciaran Carson, translations of French poetry, poetics of translation, translator subjectivity, original, derivation


Ciaran Carson is a renowned Northern Irish poet with a distinguished record of translating poetry from Irish, Italian and French. This article focuses on his translation practice as evidenced in his three volumes of French poetry in translation: sonnets by Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Rimbaud; prose poems by Rimbaud; and poems by Jean Follain. Guided by the music, the matter, and the linguistic and ontological going-beyond of the originals, Carson variously ‘adapts’ prose poems to a rhyming alexandrine format, makes explicit use of derivation, shifts spatio-temporal perspective, and ‘doubles’ his French translations with English originals. Carson’s approach of ‘fetching’ poems from ‘elsewhere’ is assessed in the light of Meschonnic’s poetics of translation, which would define the overarching objective as producing new poems in English which do in English what the originals do in French. The analysis of Carson’s new poems is also informed by conceptualizations of creativity and originality arising from research in cognitive science, literary studies and critical theory. Carson’s practice of working under constraints suggested by the original poems and exploiting possibilities offered by and between the two languages leads to an expressive plurality that unsettles notions of source and target language. His translation artefacts and commentaries are examined for the light they shed on originality and derivation; writing and translating; the subjectivity of the translator; and the relationship between original poem and new poem.


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