from “A Note on Translation” in Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovith, translated by Chana Block and Chana Kronfeld
Given the imperial status of American English today, translations of poetry into English, especially from minor languages, run the risk of domesticating the foreign, blurring subversive features, or bleaching out any sign of cultural particularity. This is a tendency we have consciously tried to resist. We have benefited in this regard from recent developments in translation studies that move beyond metaphors of fidelity and betrayal to a model of intercultural negotiation, one that is keenly aware of asymmetries of power between languages.
Which is the perfect way of saying something I’ve known about language but had no way to say quite so clearly. For me, I think, the problem is how to deal with something that is the most ordinary, everyday image or cultural understanding in one language but, translated, takes on the exotic, the unfamiliar, the extraordinary. What then to do? Choose an image that is domestic to the speakers of the translated language (that is, as one teacher said, change the tacos to hamburgers)? Write the literal with a lot of notes? How do you both let the readers of the translation remain aware of the other and yet, if the poem calls for it, write in the every day, comfortable, familiar?