Translating Poetry: Possibility or Impossibility?


Translating poetry is considered one of the most complicated types of translations. It encounters many difficulties, the most important of which is the question of possibility or impossibility of translating poetry. So, it is better to start by asking the following question: is the translation of poetry possible? Or is it impossible? It is definitely a rhetorical question because translation is as old as the presence of translated texts, which fills the shelves of libraries. One can ask despite these difficulties, who would discourage people of the world from translating poetry merely because it is fundamentally impossible? (Mann, 1970: 211) The present paper will elaborate, in more detail, upon the necessary traits of translation and poetry, and will seek the intellectual attitudes that deal with the issue of the possibility or impossibility of translating poetry by representing the views with or against the translation of poetry, as well as shedding some light on the problematic issues to be tackled in this arena. Finally, it will adopt a certain assessment model of a selection of texts that show the impossibility of translating poetry. It is worth mentioning that the idea of writing a paper on this theme is the outcome of the researcher's work with poets. The researcher have edited and translated a book from English into Arabic entitled On Poetry and Translating Poetry (2012, Beirut: Al-Jamal Publishing House). She faced many problems that urged her to write this paper, among which, for instance, are the phonological, linguistic and cultural ones. The paper will adopt translations taken from this book to show these difficulties.