Bly’s 8 Stages of Translations: Stage 7, the very painful stage

from Robert Bly’s Eight Stages of Translation

      We are nearly finished now. During what I will call the seventh stage we ask someone born into the language to go over our version. Perhaps we go back to the native speaker who helped us in the first draft; if we did not get such help then, we do now; we ask him or her to find errors that have crept in.

      For beginning translators, this stage is very painful. As beginners, we tend to give ourselves permission to veer away from the poem’s images, pulled away in fact by our private mental horses, and dismay sets in when we realize that some of our best solutions are simply wrong. […] Once I remember he found in a single Jimenez poem that I had already worked over for months, and that contained only twenty lines to start with, twenty-two errors that could not be allowed to stand. The error sometimes was in tone, sometimes in image, or slant of image, or I had picked up a South American coloring the word had rather than its Castilian coloring, or I had gotten the rhythm or vowels wrong. None of us can learn a foreign language well enough to pick all these things up.

      […] we should take this stage on by will, and consider it as important as any of the earlier stages. We have been slowly possessing the poem and making it ours—we have to do that to bring it alive—but is is possible that we have kidnapped it instead.


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