About the event

The year's final Transculturation seminar features poet, translator, scholar, and publisher Peter Cole on Translating the Esoteric.

In preparation for the seminar, Cole has provided some readings and questions:

This session will consider the challenges and pleasures encountered in translating the poetry of the Kabbalistic tradition. We might consider, for starters, some of the following questions:

How do we translate the poetry of an esoteric tradition, which is by definition not meant to be readily communicated? And should we even try?

Are there fundamental or for that matter any differences between translating mystical poetry and poetry that is, say, part of the classical or romantic tradition?

Is mystical writing itself a translation of what is beyond speech?

Is translation itself a kind of mystical mode of literary activity that takes us beyond (original) speech?

How might translation convey a sense of being on the cusp of language and what is beyond it?

Or, can the language of translation (English) convey a sense of the sacred and even magical properties of the original (Hebrew)?

But I would welcome questions from any and all directions—and offer these up only as batting practice.

The introduction to The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition (Yale, 2012) is attached, along with three poems from the volume. The Abulafia is an excerpt of an excerpt—so ellipses should be added at the end of page 3.