Thank you, Mr. Barnstone

When, among a group of translation students, I got to have a long and winding conversation with Willis Barnstone, he said many many smart (as in genius-level) things about translating. One of those has become not only my favorite, but my guiding mantra for poetry:

When it seems impossible, try a little harder and it will be easy

Tonight, working on a chapbook manuscript that was utterly flat and awkward, I tried that little bit harder, opened my mind a little farther, and, sure enough, it got easy.

Nu – if that advice worked for him translating the New Testament and Sappho and the Gnostic gospels and Greek and Chinese and Spanish and who knows how many other languages, how could it not work for me?


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