From all the translations produced in our online translation workshop, Inga Gaile has selected Mary Jane-Holmes’ version ‘Offspring’ to feature in our digital pamphlet on Latvian poetry. You can read all the versions of the poem here, and listen to our podcast on the workshop here. The digital pamphlet is available to read online in full here. In this article, Inga reflects on the different versions of the poem produced in the workshop.
The participation in the translation workshop of Vizma Belševica’s poem was a great honour for me. All her work is very important for me. But this poem especially – it touches me deeply and helps me to survive ‘hate speech’. As well as helping me to deal more reasonably with criticism!
I must express my admiration to all participants, because I think it’s quite a difficult work to translate. Its melody is a bit clumsy and somehow angular. It does not seem to be the ‘hit’ poem. All its beauty opens when you really listen to it, or maybe read it aloud. It has the soul of a teenager who sees that they differ from others, ‘beautiful’ and ‘handsome’ people, and at the same time, he/she needs to believe that he/she is ‘okay’ and shout it out. And in this shouting out, he or she becomes more than beautiful and handsome.
I notice that in some translations, the poet has chosen the idea that the earth is running out of space. That’s quite interesting, although I think the original version is about the idea of getting through our stereotypes of what is and what’s not; getting to reality by the ‘help’of judgement. For me, the idea that ‘earth is not room’ is quite important in this poem. That our words create new space but, at the same time, they create borders and ‘rooms’ as well. And that only through judgement can we somehow break the walls of old metaphors and stereotypes.
I only now, after the workshop, get how interesting the poem is: on one hand it seems quite traditional and clear in expressing its idea and telling the story, on the other hand – it’s modern in terms of using metaphors that are somehow not visible at first sight, but unusual and situational.
I am really glad, as well, that a poem by Vizma Belševica, who has been silenced as an author by Soviet authorities, got so much attention. She got the impulse to write the poem from real life events, happening to her. I hope that the poem has given some encouragement to people to speak up and not to be afraid of judgement.
– Inga Gaile