METM18 presentation 

Tuning the text: common elements in poetry, text editing and translation 

Dick Edelstein & Kymm Coveney, Barcelona, Spain 

Poetry embodies a heightened awareness of the impact of language on listeners and readers and of elements of language that contribute to this impact. Writers, editors and translators in their daily work must often step into this zone of heightened awareness to produce an aesthetically satisfying result that delivers the intended message with the right sort of impact.

Poets often start with a notion which they then expound in a way that will have a particular impact on listeners or readers, revising the form of phrases or utterances until they judge their message (and occasionally the absence of message) well expressed. In the quest for subtlety of expression, ambiguity is the poet’s ally more often than enemy, whereas translators and editors seek to concisely maximize precision of language and reduce ambiguity.

Acute awareness of elements of language such as diction, register and voice are common to poets, translators and editors, all of whom take account of the semantic field of a carefully chosen word and its psychological resonance in following an imperative to get the message right, effectively communicating to an audience a nuanced series of notions, feelings and observations. 

The presenters will take turns to show how poets make use of a heightened language awareness to finely tune their message while achieving a satisfyingly aesthetic result. Participants will explore ways to practically and usefully apply to their own tasks some of the lessons inherent in poetry. They will practice applying the same sensibilities through experiential learning tasks, using examples from the poetry of Kim Addonizio, Heinrich Heine, Jane Clarke, Shakespeare and Philip Larkin and applying them to text from commercial, technical and medical translations.

About the presenters

Kymm Coveney and Dick Edelstein, MET members for over a decade, have had several years’ experience in writing, performing and publishing poetry. They are also text professionals with expertise in writing and editing, and in translating Spanish and Catalan.