19 ways work in progress

In reading Eliot Weinberger’s tribute to Wang Wei, and his nature poem we are asked to examine interpretation. Though the problem of it is that Wang Wei isn’t around to file a complaint. So we are free as translators of his artwork to change it, and interpret it as we see fit. What is the point of Weinberger’s book though? he could have used 10 poems or less and it could have had the same effect. I’ve asked myself when reading if i created my own interpretation of Wang Wei’s word’s would i get the same interpretation of it in the same class. Because i am reading from a English point of view, and attempting to communicate a chinese language poem. The meaning of said poem could be lost in that clash of two worlds. I could translate my take on this poem, but every reader will take it differently. Much like the many translations in 19 ways to Wang Wei. 

However,  is it enough to read the poem, and get its meaning? It’s hard to improve something when where to start is up in the air. Weinberger in his book states of one of his translations, “The redundant human voices is an incongruous allusion to T.S. Eliot (“Human voices wake us and drown”) and the 19th century resound is only there to rhyme with ground.” (Weinberger 19) I notice there is to make it fit. When were talking two different ways of being. To use a human-centric viewpoint and the word “I” lessens it in Weinberg’s view.  Why cant it be a display of nature and not let humans have a voice in it.  To the point where we need to validate it to be real. It’s possible Wang Wei saw something real. Should we leave it that way?

I think that is where some of the translators go wrong. It’s unlikely that we would have known about this poem without translators, and people attempting to interpret what the  author really meant. We can’t really fault them for that. The reason i think he chose to do 19 is because there are 19 or more translations. Some he likes and many he has disagreements with. But is it that necessary? 19 versions of the same poem when reading Weinberger’s book waters it down. I think it is effective after the 10th time you read the same poem, but 9 more hits it home.



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