Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Oft him anhaga ...


I was deeply flattered a few weeks ago when an old acquaintance and fellow lover of Anglo-Saxon poetry, Chris Jones, who lectures in the School of English at the University of St. Andrews, contacted me about my versions from that antique tongue. Chris was in the final throes of an academic article on modern poets who use or are inspired by Old English in their poetry, and wanted to include references to my various translations and other bits and pieces on OE.

His request is the kind of thing which reminds me why I became a poet. The thought of people out there reading about your work, and maybe going on to buy a book or two of it, or at least look you up on the net, is a very satisfying thing. I certainly didn't become a poet so my work could go unread. So any article which might flag me up to people with similar tastes and interests is excellent, by my reckoning.

If all this has whet your appetite for some Anglo-Saxon poetry, there are some odd pieces by me scattered about in various places on OE topics, but by far the largest example is my version of The Wanderer, a very famous Old English poem about a warrior adrift without a fixed abode, which can be found in my Salt collection, Camper Van Blues.

My version caused controversy when first published because the original was written in the voice of a man - or possibly several men - but I changed the narrator's gender to female, to match my own. But what are new versions for if not to test the ability of a poem to endure and reflect society's changes?

It took me well over a month to write that translation of The Wanderer, managing just 4 lines a day on average. But it was a highly complex piece of writing, and I wanted to try and reproduce at least some of the rhythms and alliterative sounds of OE verse - not just write a translation or even a version, in other words, but a poem which would work in its own right.

Anyway, I was very flattered to be included in Chris' article and hope it will lead other writers in the future to write their own versions, keeping OE verse firmly alive in the twenty-first century.

1 comment:

Seán said...

English literature studies in Taiwan don't really include OE. I've only studied Séamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, but it's another thing.