Sunday, October 12, 2008
To Translate or Innovate?
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, British Library, MS Cotton Nero A.x
It may be possible to do both, but I've been wondering recently whether I should do some translation work next or write something completely new.
I'm studying Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original Middle English this month, so of course my fingers are itching to write a new and truly contemporary version of that - sure, everyone says of each new translation of SGGK that it's 'contemporary' but I mean genuinely so, with contemporary references instead of axes and helmets etc. and not following the original form - but whenever I start to consider how I might come at that poem in an original way, I remember someone saying to me recently that everybody seems to be translating these ancient and venerable poems at the moment instead of writing brand new epics. Almost as though poets are scared of pushing ahead into new poetic territories right now, and prefer to look back instead at what's already been achieved.
So part of me is keen to make a new translation or version of some ancient work, and part of me is excited by the thought of creating something utterly new.