It isn’t easy to explain a translator’s work to your nephews when they are just learning to read, but when I heard Saara Pääkkönen, who translates the Donald Duck comics into Finnish, explaining that she drops objects to hear what sound they make, I thought they might understand.
I’d love to imagine these poets doing the same. You can hear them reading on lyrikline, the splendidly updated German poetry website. You can search poems from all over the world by source or target language, gender or city to find exactly what you’re looking for, and save your favourites in your own collection.
So here are three that sound great read aloud by their authors, all in English translation:
A German underground train: Ulrike Draesner’s bahn übern bogen (track over arch, English by Andrew Shields) has been translated into a multitude of languages, including Chinese and Bulgarian – if only there were audio recordings of them all! She has translated other poems such as Robin Robertson’s Annunciation.
The feathers of a Finnish bird in freefall: Risto Oikarinen’s Liidunvalkea lintu suistui radaltaan…(A chalk-white bird fell off his orbit, English by by Maria Lyytinen) by Risto Oikarinen, who first trained as a saxophonist.
A Polish voice breaking the lazy silence: Tadeusz Dąbrowski’s głos translated by (the voice, English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) he has translated for others on the site including part of Brigitte Oleschinski’s Geisterströmung/Ghost Currents.
Do click and hear them – but be warned, you might get lost on the site for a while. They promise you can find a needle in a haystack among the thousands of poems. Listen carefully, and you might just hear a pin drop.
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