An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Editura Fat-Frumos
Bucuresti, Romania
ISBN 973 552 73

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DEW PEARLS is a potentially excellent tanka collection badly served by its current translation. Taking a numbered nine poem sequence as a base, and repeating this structure nine times across the four seasons and aspects of sea, sky and music, the collection contains many notable and several superb poems:

	night thoughts
	struggle helplessly,
	black butterflies
	with both wings broken
	by the hostile wind
Or again, in less despondent mood:
	winter air
	while between you and me
	is only silence ...
	at the end of the breakwater
	a wave strikes rock
But these poems have been tidied up: the first line of the butterfly poem actually reads
	nightly thoughts
the first line of the second,
	the winter air
DEW PEARLS in the current version is full of such infelicities, which intrude on the reader and in many cases effectively screen out Dale's poetic voice and intent:
	in park on the bench
	fellowship with a shadow
	a memory ...
	the unutterable longing
	and many wasted moments

	soft light autumn
	enwraps us stilly again ...
	a red dragonfly
	conceals in my day dreams
	together with your thought
It seems to be an accepted rule of practice that commercial, government and other professional translators translate only into their mother tongue. True professionals translate only into the native tongue, and nothing else. For work of lasting cultural value and Dale's work falls squarely into this category the work deserves to be treated with respect, and not be mangled like the instructions to an electric kettle. Where the current English rendering of the work avoids the pitfalls of non-native translation, the work jumps off the page:
	a white butterfly
	in my olive palm;
	if I close it
	I shall dispel the gold
	from its delicate wings
Here Dale's essential voice shines through: a clean, unfussy (but never unpoetic) engagement with the fine connections between the conduct of nature and humanity. Lovely moments slip through the net in every sequence
	the flood tide brings
	only broken shells


	the song of the magpie strikes
	rhythmically at the window


	heavy wind
	shakes the branches of the lime
But at each stage the wider translation stumbles, waving a gun towards its own feet:
	birds of passage
	stopped from their flying ...


	the insistent thought
	which pursuits your steps


	deep in my heart
	my longing is more fierce
	a remembrance
I am disappointed that DEW PEARLS has not been translated by a native speaker, and moreover one familiar with the nuances of the short-form tradition. It is an excellent book waiting to be brought properly into English. Unfortunately, in the present translation, DEW PEARLS does not come close to Donald Davie's standard in a 1996 interview with Thumbscrew:
The great verse translator is an even rarer and more admirable creature than the great poet.
Dale's work has not yet found its great translator; but when it does I would very much like to read it.

reviewer: James Roderick Burns.