Translating Images

“If the language of the poem succeeds in completely translating the image, the image has failed” (Russell Edson “Image and Language.” A Field Guide to Contemporary Poetry and Poetics).

I relish the random overlaps of life.   This sweetly short essay opened my morning over oatmeal and coffee.  I woke up early eager to tackle a revision task suggested by my mentor yesterday:  trust the image.   I’ve been working to bring my poetry into the body of the reader through form and language and to purge and heal the body of the poem from past habits from expository writing and narrative essays:  that is, over-explaining and over-narrating.   I knew what is needed, but didn’t feel it completely.

Edson’s observation helped bring this task into my body, into the gut where deep understanding happens.  As Gunter Eich said, “Our task is to translate from the language that is around us but not ‘given.’  We are translating with the original text” (“Some Remarks on ‘Literature and Reality.'” Field Guide . . .). Today I will attempt to translate just enough to make my reader see, but not so much as to not allow them to experience for themselves.


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