Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Reciprocity2 min read

A response to our review of The Reciprocal Translation Project


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To the Editors:

Eleanor Goodman’s review of The Reciprocal Translation Project, edited by Sun Dong and myself, attempts to critique non-standard translation in terms of conventional translation ideals. As such, the review misses the point of concepts derived from new poetry that change how we look at ourselves, each other and our world, including translations between languages.

I agree with Goodman that we should expand our description of the “bilingual specialists” to include these translators’ other roles as mentioned above. In the second printing, we have amended that. But surely an effort to reflect the complexity of patterns of translation need not always be resolved in the en face approximations of most translation between Chinese and English.

I do appreciate Goodman’s term “responses” to describe some of the poetic translations of the original poems, but her tendency to look at the translation process from a single perspective undermines her own well-framed statement “translation is a notoriously tricky business.” The Reciprocal Translation Project establishes a range of solutions, not all of which will be imitated, but will all be read as relevant to the process of communicating between languages and cultures. Clearly, the standard approach has not produced great understanding between our two cultures. Perhaps this discussion with all its outliers, queerness and experiments can promote a willingness to see poetry in global and environmental terms instead of only in terms of our prior understanding. Thanks, Eleanor, for inviting this discussion.

James Sherry
Editor, Roof Books