On Owersettin / Sobre la Traducción / On Translation

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Dorothy Lawrenson: In reality, I think the multitude of choices a translator must make is less of an either/or situation than the metaphor presented in this poem. But I’m sure I’m often tempted to add some ‘vogie lichts’ to the source text if I find any to hand in the target language (Scots). Perhaps I wrote this poem as a little reminder to myself to seek fidelity, transparency, or – ideally – both when translating, so as to make the ‘starns’ of the source text shine at least as brightly in its new incarnation. There’s a glancing reference in this poem to the beautiful slow air Da Slockit Light written by fiddler Tom Anderson from Shetland, the home of my paternal ancestors.

Carlos Llaza: Translation is possible only because imperfection is one of its main features in relation to both intrinsic beauty and truth to the original work. An inherent aspect of communication itself, this impossibility of achieving the perfect written or spoken exchange is what allows for the wealth of meaning and endless possibilities of further exchanges. Moreover, the impossibility of creating the perfect expression is the reason why poets and other artists continue to explore what it means to be human through new forms, methods, and materials. Dorothy’s ‘On Owersettin’ humbly explores these paradoxes, albeit with ambition and determination.

Scroll down to see a video of poet and translator reading this poem, with English subtitles.

On Owersettin
bi Dorothy Lawrenson

A body maun decide
whaur tae bide:

a city buskit
wi vogie lichts,

river skinklin
lik a keekin-gless –

a clachan bieldit
bi a wanlit law,

whase slockit lichts
mak kenspeckle starns

lowe mair vieve
i the lang-kent lift.

Sobre la Traducción
traducido al español por Carlos Llaza

Toda persona debe decidir
dónde habitar:

ciudad vestida
de luz extravagante,

río refulgente
como un espejo –

aldea al abrigo
de un monte oscuro,

cuyas luces anegadas
vigorizan el ardor

de las estrellas conocidas
en este cielo familiar. 

On translation
translated into English by Dorothy Lawrenson

A person must decide
where to live:

a city dressed
with showy lights,

river gleaming
like a looking-glass –

a village sheltered
by a dark hill,

whose doused lights
make recognisable stars

burn more brightly
in the familiar sky.

One comment

  1. I love this! Apart from the ‘slockit lichts’, I like the image of the ‘wanlit law’ – the ‘monte oscuro’!

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