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'vigor and song'

Written by the ALTA judges for the 2019 National Translation Award longlist on Monday, November 11, 2019

Jonathan Cohen and the late Donald D. Walsh have beautifully translated Pedro Mir's Countersong to Walt Whitman into the English language. Pedro Mir (1913–2000) was the Poet Laureate of the Dominican Republic, and it seems impossible that no other translations of his works can be located in an English-language rendition. We say this not because translation should constitute a form of recognition, but because it provides an opportunity for dialogue and, in this case, the sounding of a counter song. Face-to-face with the Caribbean Sea, Mir's Countersong reanimates Walt Whitman's original, tranquil, intense energy of expansiveness as he simultaneously narrates a history of US expansion. Mir repurposes Whitman's vigor and song to incite opposition to military and economic subjugation. Cohen and Walsh's poetry translation sings as weighty, acutely restrained, and rhythmic as the original work.

This is a review of Countersong to Walt Whitman: A bilingual edition, translated by Jonathan Cohen & Donald D. Walsh

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