Third extract from the fascinating interview with D Sam Abrams, professor at the Open University of Catalonia, literary critic, poet and translator. The full interview was published in issue no.2 of Barcelona INK.
Question: You have translated many Catalan poets – do you have a favourite?
Abrams: I have favourites. Of current poets, Màrius Sampere and Bartomeu Fiol and Joan Margarit.
As for the classics, for me, one is Ausias March. I think he was the greatest Catalan poet of the period, the greatest Spanish poet of the period, the greatest European poet of the period – ergo, the greatest poet of the world at that time (16th/17th century) for both his command of the language and his command of the form. He was a man with a foot in both the middle ages and the beginning of the Renaissance and this gave him a dramatic tragic view of life. There’s a point when he names himself in a poem and that for a poet was unheard of in those days.
Question: But he’s relatively unheard of ...
Abrams: Because nobody has ever translated him.
Question: And he remains untranslated?
Abrams: He’s been translated but only in the small press. I proposed to the Catalan government that they set up a team of experts: two university professors and two poets and that the draft a literal crib of his work so that somebody, a big name in English poetry (the man I had in mind was Seamus Heaney before he won the Nobel prize), could translate the crib into actual English poetry and all of a sudden March would make a big splash.
I was listened to. But I think that they felt that it was out of their reach – but it has been done before. There was an unknown Polish Renaissance poet. They made a crib and Heaney translated it and now he’s famous all over the world (Jan Kochanowski) and I can guarantee that March is ten times better than him!