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Review: To the Silenced: Selected Poems, by Georg Trakl

Will Stone's introduction to his translations from Trakl contains an admirable declaration of principle: 'As a translator of poetry I must in the end have a real poem to show for my struggle, not a collection of carefully constructed lines which read like a poem but are in fact already decomposing before they reach the page.' He has struggled with considerable success. His versions of Trakl do read like real poems, and, to a very large extent, are valid equivalents to the haunting and mysterious originals. If I seem to stress my reservations, that is not from any wish to find fault with Stone's achievement, but to note possible amendments that could be made in a revised edition.

Given Trakl's obscurity, his translator must render his language as precisely as possible..., so that the reader can explore this unique poetic landscape.


Since Stone rightly invokes Holderlin and Rimbauci, whom Trakl read intensively, it might have been better to remind us how Rimbaud created, and Traki developed, a new poetic language based on non- referential images. He does, however, locate Trakl firmly and vividly in his native Salzburg. And his own versions enable us to consider Tralk's relation both to Symbolism and to more recent European poetry. The penultimate line of Psalm', 'In his grave the white magician plays with his serpents', leaps off the page as an anticipation of a key line in Paul Celan's 'Death Fugue'. Although I cannot rate this volume quite highly as Alexander Stilimark's translation of Trakl's Poems and Prose (reviewed in Translation and Literature, 11 (2002), 118-23), anybody getting to grips with Trakl will want to have both.