Speculative poetry in Translation
edited by Lawrence Schimel
Introduction to Issue 10
When asked to guest-edit an issue of Eye to the Telescope, I at first thought I would be too busy to take this on. At the same time, my first instinct was to focus on translation, and it seemed a great opportunity to help both translators and authors find a way to get more science fiction and fantasy poetry translated into English. So little literary writing gets translated into English, period, and within genre circles, the percentage of works translated into English is even smaller, and of that material the percentage of works of poetry that are translated and published is exponentially smaller yet.… As a translator from Spanish, I’ve done what I can to translate and publish work by Spanish-speaking authors, but as a READER there is so much out there that I have yet to discover and I am limited by the languages I read fluently. So I decided that rather than focus on a specific area (for instance, genre poetry from Latin America) I would use the limited space and funds available for this issue to offer a sampler or work from different languages, trying to encourage translations into English from languages that don’t often find their way before English readers. For while translations from English seem to dominate genre publishing these days (and have for quite some time), work in other languages has been fundamental to the genre (for instance, Czech writer Karel Čapek, who coined the word “Robot”). Language so affects how we think, and poetry operates on a level of language (and with a self-awareness of language) that is different than other types of writing. Translation is already an alchemical transformation of words, and the translation of poetry involves even more levels of nuance and meaning. This issue offers writing written in Italian, Maltese, Spanish, Polish, and Russian, and the translators (in two cases the authors themselves) have used different criteria in trying to maintain the sense of the original or adapt the work to sound familiar to English-speakers’ ears. I’ve felt my role to be more curatorial than dictatorial in imposing a unified criterion, wanting to expose readers to a smorgasbord of work from different languages, yet all part of our same tradition of speculative poetry, of finding wonder in the world and the word.
Note: all the translations into English are published here for the first time.