I love the mysterious ways in which one writer can send you off in search of another. It can be a casual, fleeting reference, or a lengthy paean to another artist's words. Somehow, something will strike a chord, light a flame of curiosity in my mind, point me in a direction I had never imagined before. It was Czeslaw Milosz who had slid me down towards Brodsky, but as usual, I began with his non-poetry writing (as it is with virtually any poet whom I have ever loved). I followed him into the labryinth of Venice and of memory (in Watermark), and I was in love. I had to read more.
On my birthday several books I had ordered arrived suddenly, earlier than I had expected, as if UPS had known it was my birthday and had exerted themselves to come a day early. I danced for joy in my front hall when I saw them. Nativity Poems I will save for later, for Christmas. That leaves me with Collected Poems in English, a vast volume of poems either translated with the help of or by Brodsky himself.
I have never been able to let go of the feeling that poetry in translation loses something of its original self, no matter who translates it. Of course if the writer himself does the translating, or works together with the translator, it is as close as you can get to the original feeling of the words. But since I feel poetry is almost as much about language as it is anything else, then in my mind it cannot exist in any other language other than the one it was first written in. I will always feel as though something of the soul will always have been left behind.
No matter how many languages you know, how well you know them, even if you can breathe them as though they were a second skin, you are not the same person in your second, or third, or more language as you are in your first one. Breath, rythm, meter, words. All are different, all are reached for in vain hope that you can at least capture something of the emotion that first burst forth from your mind, from your heart, the bottom of your soul. I suppose it is enough to come close.
And so I opened the book at random, wandered through the pages, stopped whenever when something caught my eye, a word, a phrase. I think this is how love begins.