Liliana Ursu certainly accomplishes the goal of with, “In the Dusk.” Ursu ruminates, “You look at me and know how autumn makes its way. / In the dusk, under our bodies the hill sinks to ruin – weightless, at last.” Given the precision of the language, one may be surprised to find that Ursu’s poetry was not written in English but in Romanian.
As prolific American translator Willis Barnstone put it, “Translation is the art of revelation.” Thus, the translator must overcome the language barrier in the pursuit of a linguistic reconstruction.
“I think it is essential to keep the poems speaking in imagery and to evoke a voice correlative to how as a co-translator I perceive her tonality and power in Romanian,” explained Adam J. Sorkin, professor of English at Pennsylvania State Brandywine and one of the translators of Ursu’s work.
One critical decision faced by translators is when to translate a word and when to keep the native language intact.
“Sometimes the hardest thing to evoke, and maybe what won’t translate for a term like these, is context and the aura around a word,” Sorkin elaborated.
Communist suppression set the tone for Ursu’s early life. In 1977, at the height of communist power, she published her first book of poetry, a considerable feat given the restrictions placed on language by the ruling regime.
Reviewers and fans applaud the honesty and beauty of Ursu’s poetry.
Soon, Pacific University students will get a chance to see the interaction between poetry and translation, when Ursu visits the campus on Feb. 28 and 29 to give a reading accompanied by Sorkin, Gallagher and Cotter. The event will feature brief discussions of the various poems by each translator, followed by a reading by Ursu in both English and Romanian.