While on a Fulbright grant to Berlin, Germany, poet and translator Sharmila Cohen is experimenting with various approaches to collaborative translation of contemporary German poets. Here she shares the result of one of those projects.
This series is part of a project that investigates poetry translation as a correspondence or communication between author and translator. For this translation, the basic outline was that Ann would send me a poem to interpret and respond to, and then she would respond to my response—this is a way of addressing the fact that responding to poetry is a type of translation in and of itself. To my surprise, after her first poem, Ann switched languages and wrote her responses in English; thus, I was translating from English into English and she was translating me in the same way. As we got further into our exchange, I started getting the feeling that we were playing into the responsive nature of the project; we were writing poetry letters; we were creating texts that invited a reaction from the other writer, while bringing some of each other’s voice into our own text. I think that in most forms of collaboration, we are in some respects translating one another—you must for the project to continue.