The Impertinent Duet

Translating Poetry

with Art Beck

Translation is always a difficult dance, but fully translating the nuances of poetry might be impossible. Each language brings its own linguistic quirks and cultural baggage that poets use to convey not just ideas but experiences. How can an experience be recreated through so many removes? We asked Art Beck to write a series of essays on the art of translation, both to encourage others to join in the dance, and also to see how a translator’s attention to fine detail might enhance our relationship with native-language poems. The essays have been appearing as a column in our e-Issue supplements, and can also be found at the links below.


Art Beck is a San Francisco poet and translator who’s published two translation volumes: Simply to See: Poems of Luxorius (Poltroon Press, Berkeley, 1990) and a selected Rilke (Elysian Press, New York, 1983). Beck’s translation of the complete poems of Luxorius, a Roman poet whose 90 extant poems were literally lost for a thousand years, is scheduled for publication this year by Otis College Seismicity Editions.


#1: Spanish Dancing Aboard the Queen Elizabeth
—e.6 (PDF)

#2: Odi et Amo – Hate and Love and the Poet’s Soup
—e.7 (PDF)

#3: Finding Yet Another Way to Say What Can’t Be Said Any Other Way
—e.8 (PDF)

#4: The Deep Pulse of Idiom: Noodles, Blue Teeth, Flesh-Eaters, Gustave Flaubert, and Kurosawa’s Dream
e.9 (PDF)

#5: The Poetics of Exile and a Belated Review
e.11 (PDF)

#6: Versions and Forgeries: Deliberate Departures from the Text
e.12 (PDF)

#7a: An Essential Wildness: Does World Literature Exist and How Does it Get that Way?  (Part 1)

#7b: A Desultory Leap: Does World Literature Exist and How Does it Get that Way?  (Part 2)

More from Art Beck:

Review of The Drunken Boat & Other Poems from the French of Arthur Rimbaud: American Versions by Eric Greinke
—e.3 (PDF)

Review of The Restored New Testament: A New Translations with Commentary by Willis Barnstone
—E-Review (7/5/2010)