cover image Selected Translations

Selected Translations

Ted Hughes. Farrar Straus Giroux, $25 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-374-26068-2

Hughes (1930-1998), the longtime U.K. poet laureate, and editor Weissbort cofounded the magazine Modern Poetry in Translation, the venue for some of the many impressive short poems here, whose strangeness Hughes's careful versions preserve. There is, for example, the French poet Yves Bonnefoy with his phenomenological investigations (""Profound science where the ancient/ Cerebral bestiary calcines itself""); the wonderfully self-pitying Portuguese modernist Mario de Sa Carniero; and the Hungarian dissident Janos Pilinszky, whose stanzas reflect a veteran's grim experience: prisoners subject to Nazi forced labor ""are carrying the road, they are carrying the land."" Less effective-and taking up more of the volume-are excerpts from Hughes's many translations for the stage, from such classics as Euripides and Racine to a never-completed opera libretto based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Strangest of all are brief passages from Orghast, a drama-in a language invented by Hughes-derived loosely from Farsi and classical Greek. Weissbort's long explanatory essay on this play sits well beside his shorter-yet substantial-commentary on each poet and each process of translation, including work from previously unpublished manuscripts. While not the best introduction to Hughes, readers may discover poets very new to their ears.