Creativity in collaborative poetry translating

Sergio Lobejón Santos and Francis Jones

Abstract

This study examines how creative solutions to translation problems are negotiated and selected in ‘poettrios’ (teams consisting of a source poet, a target-language poet and a bilingual language mediator working from pre-prepared, literal translation drafts of poems), and compares creativity in this mode to that in solo poetry translating (Jones 2011). The interactions and outputs taken from real-time recordings, work-in-progress drafts and participant interviews from several poettrios translating original poems from English into Dutch and from Dutch into English in two workshops were coded and analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The results show that creativity in poetry translating is an eminently cognitive activity in which creative solutions typically emerge through the incremental contributions of the complementary expertises of the individual poettrio members, with occasional radical leaps. In this incremental scaffolding process, and similarly to solo translating, poettrios first consider non-creative options, then creative adjustments and, finally, creative transformations. Radical solutions are generally only accepted when a departure from the source-text surface meaning is deemed necessary to achieve the double aim of retaining the source poem’s message while producing an acceptable poem in the target culture (Holmes 1988).

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

This study examines how poettrios apply creative solutions to poetry-translation problems. Poettrios are collaborative teams consisting of a source poet, a target-language poet and a bilingual mediator who we call a ‘language advisor’ (henceforth SourcePoet, TargetPoet and Advisor, respectively). Hence this study explores translaboration, the “third space” where translation and collaboration interact (Alfer 2017, 285–286), by examining collaborative translation, where “two or more translators work together to produce one translated product” (O’Brien 2011, 17). We view collaboration as a process in which “autonomous stakeholders” engage in “joint decision-making” within “a problem domain” (Zwischenberger 2016, quoted in Alfer 2017, 283). By “see[ing] different aspects” of the domain, these stakeholders “can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision” (Gray 1989, 5). Through such collaboration, knowledge can become “a living thing that develops through interrogation, reflection and conversation” (Schwimmer 2017, 60).

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