Blue as White (The Book of Margins)
Dana Golin on Helga Landauer-Olshvang
While I tend to be a formalist in my own writing, I relish the opportunity for play – both wordplay and roleplay – that translation affords. Embodying Helga Landauer-Olshvang’s voice, trying to give it an English cadence, allows me the pleasure of experimentation with form and meter, tone and register, in someone else’s guise, while the common denominator – the depth and complexity of feeling – makes this poetic text not only relatable, but intensely personal to me. This author, writing in free verse, employing an extended syntactic arc and disjointed, loosely connected grammatical fragments rather than formal sentences, seems to proceed by intuitive, associative leaps, like a creeping vine that must find an immediate foothold before it can choose the vector for its movement, and footing for its subsequent segment. As a result, Landauer-Olshvang’s poems have a grasping quality, as if in the process of her allusive, stream-of-consciousness language making, she is trying to grasp emotional truths at the speed of writing. That ”live,” real time, breath-measured development of her poems draws the reader (and the translator!) into an almost voyeuristic intimacy, that seems more conspiratorial then confessional in nature.
It is ironic that Helga Landauer-Olshvang’s Russian text is likely influenced more by American Language Poetry than by anything in the Russophone tradition; I hope that my translations have, at least in part, succeeded in bringing it back home, into the fold of the English language.