Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Group 6: Hannah G., Kate H., Laura S., Mikael N., Tuong-Van N.

Please select comments and follow the Letter Guidelines for your posts to the exchange.


Kate H., Clemson said...

Dear Group,

My name is Kate and I am a freshman at Clemson. I’m in a World Literature class, for which we are doing this project, and I am also an English major. For this first letter I decided to focus on the poem “Track” or “Tracks”, depending on the translation. I looked at several words and phrases that I thought were important and then compared the specific diction used by the two different translators. The first idea that I thought was interesting was the concept of night in the poem. While both translations make it clear that it is in fact dark out, Bly opts for “2 A.M. moonlight.”, while Swenson says, “Night, two o’clock: moonlight”. I personally preferred the wording of Bly because I think it sounds more crisp and concise, and seemed more fitting with the tone of the poem. In my opinion it is important that it is nighttime because the poem’s tone is so isolated, something that is usually associated with darkness or night. A second important concept found in the poem is the lack of motion, expressed by Bly as “entirely motionless” and Swenson as “perfectly still”. In terms of the translator’s phrase choice I find them to be fairly interchangeable, however I slightly preferred Bly’s because it sounds more somber. I liked the idea of no motion because it seems fitting that nothing is moving except for the lights from the town. The final concept that I found particularly relevant was the distance from the town, phrased by Bly as “far off” and Swenson as “distant”. These two translations struck me as having the same effect, however I thought that the distance illustrated by both translators was imperative to the poem because it reinforced the aforementioned tone of isolation. Overall I enjoyed the poem.

Excited to hear from you all,

Mikael said...

Hello Group!

My name is Mikael Nilsson and I’m currently doing my Master thesis in Interaction Design at Chalmers, with a focus on game design. I did my Bachelor, also at Chalmers, in Computer Science, which fits well with my main interest: programming.

I’ve decided to look more closely at the poem In the Clear, and decided on the following words to express my understanding of it:

“Started me walking”
The poem seems to me to be a journey. It starts in the first verse, driving the person out of the forest and in to the suburbs. The third verse seems to be a contemplation of after the journey, of moments past.

“On the threshold”
The person in the poem is outside, on the threshold, not going to deep into the forest before returning, not actually a part of the suburbs but outside looking in.

“Instantaneous photograph of something in rapid motion”
Each verse is a snapshot of life. In the forest everything is still and seems left behind by people who are missing. In the suburbs the glass façade is still and the violence of the world seems unreal.

Had I only read Swenson’s translation, the same images would not come to mind, mainly due to superficial differences such as “implement” were, in my head, “tool” would fit better (or jet plane instead of airplane). Also the expression “missing persons” has a very specific ring to me and my mind goes to posters with the words “Have you seen this man”.

As for Bly’s translation I did not, at all, understand what he meant by “You wild, raging walking, you are a kind of prayer for others”. As far as I can tell Swenson’s translation is more accurate as translations go and I could not see what decision prompted Bly to rewrite it as he did.

The part I found most intriguing was the middle of the second verse, when speaking about the faces of good and evil and the people who run deaths errands. Is this a comment on complacency or corruption perhaps, and who are you and us in this part of the poem? What do you think?

Best regards
Mikael Nilsson

Unknown said...

Hello everybody!
My name is Tuong-Van and I am currently studying at Chalmers University as a first-year master student in the program Sustainable Energy Systems. I decided to analyse the poem “Spår”. The keywords/concepts I decided to pick up from the poem are “night, moonlight and stars”, “train and still”, “dream and sickness”.
The choice of “night, moonlight and stars” was motivated by the context of the poem. Reading It is obvious that the action (even if the train is motionless) takes place during the night, which fits pretty well with my personal impressions, and, in my opinion, with the tone of the poem. The train stopped in the middle of nowhere since no precise indications are given: “out in a field” or “middle of the plain” depending on the translation. However, at the same time, it looks that the train is not completely isolated, the moon shines “full/strong moonlight” and there is a town, still distant, but one can see some lightning points. I prefer so the second translation, since it gives more to me the feeling of being isolated and close at the same time.
The concept of “train and still” adds more to the idea of being isolated, but not totally. The train is supposed to be something which moves, that one takes for moving while seeing different landscapes. In the poem the train is stopped, completely motionless and this is in contrast with the role of the train and adds to the deepness of the poem.
Finally, the “dream and sickness” refers, in my opinion, to the secondary state that one can feel in some environment and develops imagination and melancholy in an intensive but brief way. Both translations illustrate that with the phrase “so deep” to express how far everybody can get lost in his feelings but has to overcome that (“former days” for example) and to come back to reality. Human is so similar to the train, it can get lost somewhere and then just works/finds its way again and life continues, like nothing happened.

Hannah G. said...

Hello Group!
My name is Hannah G. and I’m a freshman at Clemson University and in the World Literature class for which we are doing this project and getting to interact with you guys!
The poems I focused on were “Track” and “Tracks”. I decided to focus on these two poems because they seemed to stand out the most to me and I found interest in them. The two poems shared the same over-all ideas in my mind. The two poems discussed trains, horizons, and times of early morning. I felt like both of these poems also focused on a journey in life, more than just the literal journey of this train.
“Track” by Robert Bly came off as a very modern poem to me. The use of the written number “2” instead of the longhand version of the number came off very modern to me as well as short. In comparison to “Tracks” by May Swenson, I feel like Bly’s poem comes off more harsh in the beginning and less focus is put on the actual setting. It seemed that Swenson focused a lot more on making the setting not only important, but romantic. By breaking the sentence up and slowing it down with the use of commas and colons, Swenson allowed her entrance sentence to have a great impact.
The overall theme was one of the ending of life. With the use of diction like a long dream, or deep into sickness, the poets used darkness with a hint of light on the horizon as well as the term deep to represent the ending of this person’s journey or life. I felt like the train represented the person’s journey, be it life or some other journey that is ending, and that the city that was on the horizon was one that seemed to be never in reach.
Between the two poems I felt that the poets both described a journey of some sort, and its end being very near. However, I feel that Bly’s way of writing came off to be harsher, and that the end of the journey was written in a very negative light with terms such as “strong moonlight” and the choppy sentence of which he made his introduction. Swenson, however, was able to make it a more pleasant experience for the reader, with the use of whimsical terms such as “twinkle” and “full moonlight” which made this end of the journey are more pleasant and excepting experience.

Laura Schwerzel said...

Dear Group,
Hi, my name's Laura, and I'm currently a freshman at Clemson University.
I looked mostly at the "Breathing Space" group of poems. I chose these because the idea of being where you are but also what you're looking at struck me. The four different translations vary a bit in the specific language chosen, but the overall themes and ideas are there. Although, part of the interest in comparing multiple translations is looking at the word choice in each, since changing one word can mean a volume of difference in the final meaning of a poem. One minor disparity in translation comes in the very first line, with the descriptor for "trees". Two translations declare them high trees while the other two decide that they are huge and tall. While this difference doesn't do much to change the theme of the poem, it does show what can be lost or changed in translation.
A more apparent shift in language was realized when I started looking at the poems more carefully. In some of them, it seems that there are multiple men being discussed, the man under the tree, the man by the dock, the man in the boat. In another, it appears that there is just one man doing all these things at various points in time. This relatively slight difference in language (a simple shift from “the man” to “he”) can lead to great differences in interpretation. Is this one man who has the ability to feel what he sees? Or is it a trait inherent in mankind to be able to escape by imagining the experience of being something other than himself? The range of possible interpretations is wide, and getting larger all the time when the language is so varied.

Mikael said...

Letter 2

Hello Group!

Since I forgot to mention it in my last letter I wanted to add that I'm taking the class Fiction for Engineers here at Chalmers, and that's why I'm in this exchange. I also realized I was not supposed to mention my last name.. no harm done I hope.

I found all your letters very interesting and hope mine bring something to the table. The one thing mentioned that most made me change my view on these poems was not actually a comment on one of the poems. It was when Hanna G. referred to Track and Tracks as two different poems instead of two translations of the same poem. Both are true, but seeing them as two different poems made me concentrate more on each poem instead of how they differed from each other and from the original.

I also thought the differences in the tone in the two poems, also brought up by Hanna G., was interesting, and I completely agree. Not only is “twinkling” whimsical, but it brings twinkling stars to mind while “flickering” makes me think of a barely burning flame of a candle. Also Bly’s “strong moonlight” is a more factual statement compared to Swenson’s “full moonlight” which has a romantic ring to it.

The second thing I noted was about Laura’s comments on Breathing Space, specifically about her thoughts on the number of men in the poems. I agree with her that the different versions give the poem very different meaning depending on how the man is (or men are) referenced. I thought the two first translations (Borei and Swenson) were a bit strange for this reason, since the original, to me, is definitely about several men. If I wanted to make Borei’s version more accurate with the original I would change “Who..” to “He who..”, but I’m not saying that would make the poem better.

Best regards
Mikael N.

Kate H., Clemson said...

Hello again!

I really enjoyed reading all of your letters and hearing the different insights about the poems.

In response Mikael:
I definitely agree that the poem is talking about a journey, and I loved the way that the poem was fragmented into the different segments, like you referenced. One of the ways that I read into the poem was the journey through life, from childhood through adulthood. Did you get that feeling at all?

In response to Tuong-Van:
After reading your letter I re-read through the poem and noticed what you were saying about the different translations and the concept of “distance and closeness”. In your letter you referenced the tone and I was just curious what exactly you would say the tone of the poem was. And would you say that the tone differed between the two translations or stayed relatively similar?

In response to Hannah:
When I first read the poem I was instinctually drawn to the first translation because I liked the feeling of cold and modern, but your letter made me reconsider the second translation. I noticed Swenson did a good job of adding the air of romance that you referenced. My question for you was do you think that the differing tones of the poem makes the subject of the poem or the journey taken in the poem come out in a different light, and if yes, than how so?

In response to Laura:
I was really interested by your examination of the concept of one man vs. multiple men in the poem. And your questions made me go back and reconsider the meaning of the poem. I would say that it is not inherent to mankind, but rather a trait possessed by some. My question for you was about something I noticed in Robert Fulton’s translation. He, unlike the other three splits the concept of sleep from the man in the boat. Do you think that this has a different effect?

I wrote specifically about questions that I had based on people’s responses, but I’d love to hear all of your opinions. Bye!

Unknown said...

Hello again everybody!

First of all thanks for all your comments and feedbacks about the poems, it brought me a lot for their understanding. It was nice to remark than some of us have decided to focus as well on the poem “Tracks” and the two different translations which are provided.

I found interesting the fact that Kate preferred the translation of Bly more than the translation of Swenson, which is actually the opposite of my opinion. I noticed that, in your opinion, the translation of Bly fitted more to the original poem than the other one since it is more concise and crisp. I re-read the poem afterwards and I think that I got what you meant. For you one of the most relevant concepts was the idea of “distance” and “no motion” that I thought being completed with the idea of “moving” and “not isolated”. Do you feel as well that there is this concept of “distance and closeness”, and, maybe more important, do you feel it equally in both translations? And even further, do you think that the translators were conscious of that and maybe wanted us to feel the same?

Finally, to answer to Hannah, I think you pointed something important as well with the differences of writing “2 A.M” and the different placements of the commas and colons. I feel the same for the translation of Swenson. He did not want to get just stuck on the original poem but to develop a romantic dimension as well.

However, your interpretation of Tracks as the representation of a journey to the end of life made me feeling strange. I did not interpret the poem like that at all, but, after reading it again I understood your point of view: some words and sentences can be clearly related to the concept of life as a journey and death as the end point. I also remembered that life is sometimes seen as a tunnel and death as the light at the end of it. Do you share this vision too and do you feel like it is clearly that in the poem?

Laura said...

Hey Group,

Were we really not supposed to mention our last names? Oops. I enjoyed reading what you all had to say about the poems. It’s interesting that three people decided to talk about “Tracks” while only one person mentioned each of the others.

To answer Kate's question about Robert Fulton splitting his final stanza, it had crossed my mind that it might just have been a mistake that happened when the poem was copied onto the page, but I suppose that it could also be meant to separate consciousness from dreams.

I like what Mikael said about "In the Clear" and how he picked out the phrases that seemed to stand out the most. When I went back and read that poem again, those were the phrases that I noticed the most, and they seemed to contribute a lot to the main ideas of the poem.

Tuong-Van's ideas about the train were also very interesting to me. The fact that the train is not moving is rather significant, and the contrast with the purpose of a train definitely does add depth to the poem.

Kate’s and Hannah's observations on the differences between "Track" and "Tracks" pointed out the importance of language that I had touched on in my response to the "Breathing" poems. There can be a great difference in interpretation of language based on the connotations of the words used.

Hannah G. said...

Hello All!
I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses and I find it so interesting to be able to see different views from people in different cultures than us! This blog spot has been such a great cultural experience!

To Mikael: Even though we chose different poems I found a lot in common with your writings and mine, as well as our poems themes. You discussed the idea of a journey in the poem “In the Clear” and this reminded me exactly of my poem “Tracks” in which I felt like the poem was expressing a journey. Also when you discussed the idea of the person in the poem being on the outside looking in I related this directly to my poem with the description of the train being on the outside of its journey looking into the town, from a distance, as if it was never to be reached.

To Tuong: I enjoyed reading your view on the poems that we both chose. This allowed me to be able to compare and see what you chose over what I chose to focus on in the poem. Your idea of the second translation I found in comparison to mine. You discussed the idea of the train being close but still isolated. I viewed the second poem as more of a positive view on the journey, but getting to see your view allowed me to take the isolation in more of a positive sense and less of the negative, end-of-life sense that I feel isolation means to me.

To Kate: I also enjoyed your view on the poems as well of “Tracks”. I also noticed the use of the times and how they were written. However, I preferred Swenson’s view to Bly’s because I felt like Bly’s diction made the setting seem not important and less romantic. I enjoyed both poems, but found Swenson’s more poetic and more positively impacting on the idea of the journey that the reader and the person in the poem are taking together.

Kate H., Clemson said...

Letter 3:

In response to Tuong-Van:
I went back and reread the different translations and examined the concepts of "distance and closeness" and I thought that Bly's translation emphasized distance more, whereas Swenson focused more on the "closeness". To me, it seemed almost like the glass half empty vs the glass half full paradox. I don't know if this was the intention of either of the translators, but I would say that in my opinion that is the overarching thing that causes Bly's version to sound more clinical and Swenson's version to sound more romanticized.

In response to Laura:
I thought your idea of split consciousness was really interesting, and I also think that whether or not it was intentional, something that I had not even considered, would seriously change the way that the poem was read and interpreted.

In response to the discussion as a whole:
I have really enjoyed hearing all of your opinions throughout the project. I am curious as to how much the cultural differences played into the different readings and interpretations of the poems, if they did at all. I think that it was great to hear some of the directly translated words, offering such a unique perspective on the poems, as it conveys more of the original intent than a translation is ever able to. I didn't really find anything about the exchange difficult, with the exception of expanding my own interpretation of the poems, which is an issue that I always have with poetry.

To explain my artistic choice:
I picked this photograph because this is what I envisioned to be the setting of the poem. I thought that it well represented the isolation that I had in mind when reading Track or Tracks, and I also thought that it captured the "Midwest" feel that I got when the translators described the proximity to the town. Sadly, I couldn't find a picture of a wheat field at night, which is what I had originally been looking for, but all were personal property, however I feel that this is a good substitute. I also pictured looking away from the train tracks and out into the abyss when reading the poem, largely because I felt that the train was merely a means to the journey as opposed to an important entity in and of itself, something else that I felt was well represented by this photo.

Thanks so much for your letters! I've really enjoyed hearing all of your opinions. I hope the rest of your year is great!


Mikael said...

Letter 3

Hello again Group!

This has been an interesting exchange and if this is the last you hear from me, I wish you all good luck with your studies and whatever comes after.

First of all, in response to Kate's question: Yes, I did read a journey-through-life into the poem. The third verse, especially, gives the feeling that time has passed, that the person in the field has lived long and seen much. The images that popped into my mind while reading, however, where always of a physical journey and so that's how I mainly see the poem. In my mind there is an almost frantic walk in the background of the poem, the person in it moving through the world but stopping and taking snapshots of a few quiet, serene moments (the forest, the glass wall and so on). I also see the second verse as directly connected to the first, while the third is a long time afterwards.

To Hanna: I thought about what you said about Tracks also giving the feeling of someone being outside looking in, and I agree with you. I also realized that most of the poems I've ever read give me this feeling, to some degree. Is this just me, or does anyone else agree (let's hope all the rest of you read this paragraph even if it said "To Hanna")? Is it perhaps quite common that poets write this into their poems (consciously or unconsciously) because that's how they themselves see much of what they write about; from the outside looking in? This is just wild speculation, but does anyone agree, or at least understand what I mean?

One of the things I have learned from this exchange is to go into more detail when reading poems. If no special thoughts or feeling come to me when first I read a poem, instead of reading it over and over to try to force some kind of understanding (as I am prone to do) I can examine each word (or a chosen few) and exactly what they mean to me. A single word can, as we have been discussing, make a huge difference.

Lastly, I recently found a song that fits quite well with my idea of Out In the Open/In the Clear. The song is Alpha Shallows by Laura Marling. It has the stressed (almost frantic) feeling in the background which grows and stills along the way. Some of the lyrics also fit, if you ask me. The one thing that does not mesh is the end, which has the wrong tone and tempo to fit with the poem.

Also, the first verse in the poem made me think about "Out of a Forest" (mainly because of the title) which is a quite good, short film which you should check out if you have time.

Mikael N.

Unknown said...

Letter 3:

Dear everybody, first of all, thanks a lot for this cultural exchange, I really enjoyed it a lot and it was nice to read and to comment on different visions of the same poem and translations. I wonder how important our different backgrounds played a role in our respective opinions, was it just our culture, our educative background or, most probably, our personal life?

In response to Hannah: I enjoyed reading your view too, thanks a lot for this interesting exchange. The main difference is that you think that my view allowed you to see more the positive senses and it actually did the opposite to me. I re-read the poem and the translations afterwards and I took more into account the negative sense of isolation and end-of-life. I am however glad that we both managed to arrive to a compromise between too much positive or too much negative senses of isolation. Perhaps our visions reflect a bit too the opinions of the persons in charge of the translations, one optimist, and one pessimist?

In response to Laura: Reading your different comments I agree with you on the fact that a lot of things can contribute to add depth to the poem… the train which is supposed to move does not move, the different words and the different connotations… it is incredible to see how much the poem can be differently interpreted depending on the translation and on the reader. In my opinion, and, I think, in the opinion of many of us, the contrasts particularly enhance the depth of the poem.

In response to Kate: I would not be really able to define what is the tone of the poem, and definitely not able to say either what it is in that case. It is just something I felt when reading the poem and the translations. I would however say for sure that the tone differs between the two translations; some common points can of course be found since it is the same poem but I feel like the tone has been a lot influenced by the translations. Since I am unfortunately not able to understand perfectly Swedish I cannot tell you if I feel that the tone of the original poem differs from the translations or not but I think so.

In general, I think I learnt a lot from this poetry exchange, it made me think more about how I read a poem and how I interpret it. It is much easier now to say and to explain what I think. However, the most important thing I learnt from this cultural exchange is to balance my opinion when reading a text in general. Each of us had different opinions and the differences between all of them allowed me to read the poem “Tracks” from different points of view. I hope that I will be able to do the same in the future!

As a conclusion, thanks everybody for this exchange, and wish you the best for your studies and your future!

Hannah G. said...

Hello Group!
Sad to say, but here is the final letter! It has been great being able to talk via this blog spot, and being able to share and toss back and forth ideas on these poems. I have loved being able to see the differences between the two cultures and how same ideals can be shared even when separated by so much space.
To Laura: I loved that you branched out to a poem not many of us did. I liked your response on this poem and how you stated that what you were looking at not only helped your situation but where you were; which I was able to relate to the poem I chose, Tracks, which made me think that I was looking at the train, when at the same time someone else could view it from the train looking out.
To Kate: I enjoyed reading your comments and questions because I feel like I can bounce a lot of the same ideas off of your findings. As much as I love a good difference, being able to relate to someone also comes in handy in poem. You and Mikael both described the journey in the poem, which even after re-reading, is what I envision every time.
To the whole discussion: I have greatly enjoyed being able to not only see the views of others in my class, since not everyone gets to talk on every topic about their personal views, but also the wonderful views of Mikael and Tuong-Van who have been awesome enough to communicate back with us! This experience was very interesting to me because I’m always interested in seeing if people from different cultures struggle the same way I do with close-readings of poetry. I felt like this was a great way to get ideas out without the stress of wondering if what you were saying was exactly what the teacher wanted, but more that people actually wanted to hear your opinions on the poems.
To the Art: I chose this art piece, a photo of a train at night, because when reading the poems Track and Tracks I envisioned a train as if I were standing out in a field at night as an onlooker at a long, black train at night in the middle of a field. I saw stars in the skies and a certain stillness that brought peace in my mind. This picture I found was the closest image I could find to match the one in my head, without butchering one out on paper for y’all!
I hope all of y’all have enjoyed this blog spot interaction as much as I have, and I thank everyone for not only writing interesting things that triggered my own thought process, but also for everyone who found some sort of interest in my writings too!

Art piece:

Laura said...

Hey Group,
It has been very interesting to get to see so many differing opinions on these poems. I've enjoyed reading what everyone has to say about the poems and seeing new ideas develop as a result. I know that I was able to get more out of the poems that I read because of the input from all of you guys.

To Kate: I appreciated your questioning the split in Robert Fulton's last stanza, as it made me look back at the poems again, which helped me to come up with a different interpretation from the one I had originally assigned it.

To Tuong-Van: Your comments on "Tracks" were well stated, and they helped me to think a little differently about why certain words may have been chosen. The whole concept of a train that doesn't move was very interesting to me, and I may not have noticed that had you not pointed it out in your post.

To Hannah: I liked reading your interpretation of the language used in "Tracks" and "Track". The connotations of the words you focused on were very important to realizing the tone of each poem.

About the art I chose: The picture I chose is of a forest, probably taken at the edge of it, or in a clearing. I chose it because this photo seemed to me to reflect the scene that the man in the first stanza of each poem may have been looking at. The trees in the picture are very tall, but also thin enough to sway, which was a verb common to all translations.

I've enjoyed hearing what all of you have had to say, and I hope that my own writings have been as interesting and helpful.