Writing Exercise #2: Translation

Translation, they say, is a good way to improve one’s language skills. Translating poetry, specifically, forces the writer to focus on the words — on diction, essentially — because all other elements like poetic structure and literary content are already taken care of.

For this exercise I chose three poems by three different writers. I picked a César Vallejo poem because I initially wanted to see if I could translate directly from Spanish to Filipino (I couldn’t). I was also curious about how nuances get lost in multi-level translations (i.e. Spanish to English to Filipino), but obviously I would never find an answer.

Next I went with Charles Bukowski, an author known for his polarizing stream-of-consciousness verses. I have read criticisms against his prosaic style — the same disapproving remark flung against so-called Instagram poets — so I wanted to explore how I could render this cadence in Filipino. Lastly I went with Lang Leav, partly for the same reason, but mostly because I wanted to know if her poems, which I admittedly do not enjoy, would look better (or worse) in another language.

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