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Canada needs more of the world

Maisonneuve columnist Zach Wells has weighed in further on the absence of foreign voices on our domestic poetry lists. “In a previous column, I lamented Canada’s piss-poor record of publishing foreign poetry written in English,” he writes. “This week I’d like to highlight another moth hole in our literary tapestry: the publication of poetry translated from foreign tongues into English.” One culprit, argues Wells, is restrictive federal funding guidelines, which allow translation grants only for works that have not previously been translated into English.

“There are reasons for the proliferation of English versions of Dante, Baudelaire and Rilke,” he continues later in the piece. “Whatever the quality, no single translation is ever the correct one. The argument ‘it’s been done before, so why should we pay to have it done again’ is revelatory of fundamental philistinism, of an attitude more attuned to the production of superficial cultural novelty than to any deep exploration and reconception of seminal literary works.”

Related links:
Zach Wells’ Maisonneuve piece about translating foreign-language works
Wells’ previous column about publishing foreign-authored English-language poetry