In the Shadow of Nerval: Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser, and the Poetics of (Mis)Translation

  • Andrew Mossin
Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)


Translation is, as Spicer recognized, risky business. Involving issues of poetic tradition, language (“words around the immediate”), and the insistent subjectivity of the poet him/herself engaged in the act of translating, translation presents a particularly fraught region in contemporary poetic discourse. At stake are notions of the real, the “truthfulness” of the encounter between poet and language, language and the world. “A really perfect poem,” Spicer has famously said, “has an infinitely small vocabulary” (Collected Books 25). Following from this, one could suggest that a really perfect translation proposes the invisibility of all language, the short-lived and implicitly time-bound aspect of words that “shrivel and decay like flesh around the body.” What’s left is something recognizable as poetic meaning: not translation as “copy”; translation as that which has vanished and crossed over into another state.


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© Andrew Mossin 2010

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  • Andrew Mossin

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