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Translating Foreign Poetry

Philip Dodd explores the complexities of translating poetry with Radio 3's Ian McMillan, who loves collecting poems in foreign languages.

As part of BBC Poetry Season, Philip Dodd presents poems newly translated into English by Radio 3's Ian McMillan.

Whenever the poet finds himself overseas, Ian always makes the effort to seek out the local poetry, the way others seek out seaside rock, local carpets or car stickers. He buys a choice volume by the writer that most takes his fancy - and brings it back for his home bookshelves. His aim is to one day compose his own English-language version of the best of these foreign poets - and spread the word within these shores.

Night Waves gives him a first chance for his mission. Ian creates two new poems from literal translations into English. He can't reveal his choices, but Ian's message is clear - alongside the BBC's celebration of historical British giants like Donne and Milton and our impressive raft of contemporary poets working in the UK, let's also celebrate the rich variety of poetry that is available in translation.

45 minutes


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