Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The birch tree in winter

Two weeks ago I used a line from Robert Frost's poem Birches as the title of a posting: "I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree". And even though this poem is not too difficult to read, I wanted to look at a Finnish translation.

Finally I found a translation in a collection of American poems edited (and translated) by Ville Repo. And indeed, my impression of this poem was strengthened when reading the translation; it is powerful and deep. But it is also different, an interpretation.

For those who know Finnish, here is the end of the poem, translated by Ville Repo, from the book Tähtien väri: valikoima amerikkalaista runoutta (WSOY, 1992; ISBN 951018408X):

Tahtoisin nousta mustat oksat latvaan
valkoisen rungon, kohti taivasta,
kunnes puu taipuisi ja minut
laskisi maahan. Mennä, palata
tekisi hyvää. Aivan kelvollinen
olisi osa koivujen keinuttajan.

What I wonder is - compared to the difference in reading a poem in various languages - how much difference is there how we look at photographs? Has language anything to do with it?


Paul said...

Juha: I'm sure that there is a huge difference in poetry, based on language, but no so much in photography; I would submit, however, that there would be a huge difference in response culturally to photography. If people from several different cultures were given the same picture or group of pictures, without being told a story about them, they'd come up with widely diverse feelings about the photo. That would be my guess.

Juha Haataja said...

@Paul: I'm sure you are right. But maybe there are also some things which are more or less hardwired in the brain, bypassing the verbal level altogether, and being the same across cultures.