Mither Tongue – A love letter to translation

(published by Ink, Sweat and Tears 14/04/2021)

Parallel translations always bring a certain kind of joy. I have fond memories of reading Pablo Neruda for the first time, original text on the left, English translation on the right. Feeling out the Spanish sounds out loud with no understanding, then checking the following page and finding that sweet intersection, where sound precedes meaning and then adds to it. The musicality of poetry is obvious when you have the two parts of a poem – sound and meaning – separated onto two sides of a page.

Enter Mither Tongue, a collection of translations of the Chinese poet Jidi Majia, and one that I would struggle to call parallel. Perhaps it’s better named triangular translation, three versions of the same poem dancing across the page. Jidi’s original at the back, English on the left by Denis Mair, and a dialect of Scots on the right.

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