BOOKS: Translation as metamorphosis

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Sponsored by Arts Council England, Agenda is the long-established, highly regarded international poetry journal. Each issue contains a carefully selected body of well-crafted, moving poetry, with incisive, challenging essays and reviews, and also gives access to fresh young voices (aged 16-plus) via the Broadsheets. These appear online ( along with additional poetry and essays which form a lively supplement to the magazine. Magazines can be bought separately, along with back issues, and their availability is listed online. Four issues equal one volume, which equals a subscription. Special issues, endorsed by figures such as Seamus Heaney, focus on the work of an individual poet; international issues explore poetry from different cultures; and general anthology issues focus on UK and Irish poets. Each magazine has a general English section, a chosen young Broadsheet poet and, often, a young essayist.

The current issue (160 pages) is available for pounds 12 (a subscription costs pounds 28) from the address below or online. Translation as Metamorphosis is particularly timely as it cuts across barriers of culture, creed and century. In its focus on "chameleon" literature, both in translations and essays, it reaches out to those whom the renowned translator Michael Hamburger defines as "true readers" who are "in search of a language that takes risks, an immediate and urgent language that may not reveal where it's coming from or where it's going. As long as there are such readers and writers, poetry will survive." Affirming the importance of translation in our age of internationalism, the magazine explores the debate over its complexities. It suggests that, even if translation is seen as fundamentally impossible, the best translators ("world-class jugglers") somehow manage to triumph over this impossibility.

Agenda offers translations of both well-known and emerging poets from Germany, Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Kurdistan, Persia, Poland, Sicily, Spain, Russia, Tunisia and Turkey, with a time-span that ranges from the seventh century BC to the present day. The translators include Robert Chandler, Peter Dale, Sasha Dugdale, Harry Guest, John Heath Stubbs, John Montague, Peter Robinson, Anne Stevenson and Charles Tomlinson. There are essays and reviews are by WS Milne, Martin Dodsworth, Michael Kirkham and others.

Spring 2005 will see a double Australian issue, to be followed in autumn 2005 by a double US issue. To accompany this issue, Agenda Editions are also bringing out two collections of poetry: John Montague's translations of Claude Esteban, A Smile Between the Stones (pounds 7.99), and Desmond O'Grady's Kurdish Poems of Love and War (pounds 9.99).

Send subscriptions/book orders (single issue pounds 12; annual subscription pounds 28) to: Agenda, The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL; or to Worldwide Subscription Services Ltd., Unit 4, Gibbs Reed Farm, Ticehurst, Wadhurst, East Sussex TN5 7HE; or at

`I'm Almost Certain'

by Marina Tsvetaeva

translated from the Russian by Belinda Cooke

I'm almost certain - beyond that grove

Is the village where I lived.

I'm almost certain - love is simpler

and easier than I thought.

You useless nags! Get moving!

A lifting and lashing of the whip,

and after the cry again the lash -

and once more the bells sing out.

Over the wretched swaying corn

one pole follows another,

and the wire beneath the sky

sings and sings of death.

13 May 1916