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Poetry in translation and translation of poetry

Thanks to Chinthi and a conversation about translating translations of poems.

In my eyes, there is poetry in everything. The way a vine reaches out with little strands to find a higher point to pull itself up from, the way gears turn and multiply force, the little sounds of chirping birds uniting to a symphony of joy.

In my eyes, the work we do with Pro Bono itself is poetic.

Poetry in translation and translation of poetry

It may get into the gritty side of humanity and confront us with realities we tend to ignore on a day-to-day basis. It may be hard on us to realise how bad this world can get. But… At the same time, we are working together, a great big team of professionals from all countries and walks of life, of all ages and convictions, toward making this little blue planet somewhere we can more easily leave behind for future generations.

I can’t speak to everyone’s convictions or motivations, and I am convinced they are as varied as they are alike. That being said, I know only people wanting to have a positive effect on our reality will come and dedicate their time and brain power to this endeavour.

Whether we translate for the IRC, Progressive International, or other organisations, we are helping them extend their reach beyond what they thought possible. We are part of a beautiful virtual and complex construct that makes the world around us better, and makes us better, too.

We can’t not feel for the people we translate about. We are human, after all. And that act of letting ourselves empathise with the recipients or subjects of our work changes us. It is those minute changes to ourselves, time and time again as we think about the subjects we translate about, that make us all change for the better.

We translate poems, sometimes, and translations of poems… But our work in itself, even the nitty gritty aspect of it, is part of the great poetry of striving for the “better good”.

The “greater good” might seem daunting, but the “better good” is just one step higher than what we already are involved in. Step by step, word by word, translation by translation, we climb the rungs of the ladder which is our “better good” until we realise we’ve been working for the greater good all along.

So I’ll translate a few more words today, and attempt to translate translations of poems; as a step upwards onto the next higher rung of my ladder, reaching up like a vine, hoping for a better world for future generations, and moving a grain of sand at a time. When we’re all done with moving our grains of sand, who knows, we may have all moved mountains together.

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Thank you very much for your article. I've been introduced to poetry translation through a very interesting project ( a couple of years ago. It was really challenging at the beginning but I must admit that it's something I really enjoy doing now. There are so many feelings behind the words! And you are right, poetry is everywhere in what we see and hear, we have to stop, look and listen!


I feel this writing is magnificent, it is a poem without being a poem. The last sentence is catching and inspiring. We certainly are ants creating a better world. Thank you for your words!

Replying to

Thank you for the high praise!


"When we’re all done with moving our grains of sand, who knows, we may have all moved mountains together."

Thanks for such a cheerful post, Yuna! Together we can! :)

Replying to

We can and we will. One word at a time. :)


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