AP: When you returned to your Welsh murder mystery poem when writing Keeping Mum you found that your translations actually produced entirely new poems. Is bilingualism ultimately a creative way to live and write?
GL: Well, I think the real leap isn’t from one language to another but from inarticulacy into a language, whichever one. It’s always the in-between two things that’s interesting, never the destination, which is why translation has become the image for poetry. I think it’s the particles that make the meaning. I mean you kind of jump and you lose a positron or a photon or two and you become a whole new chemical. So it’s that continual transformation that’s interesting to me.
Languages are not guilty or innocent in themselves, they are different phases of poetic composition. They’re simply constructed in a different way because of the order in which I acquired Welsh, then English, then French, then Spanish and some German. The way that the pre-conscious intelligence works underneath that is a kind of musical rhythm. I’ve been reading Jacques Maritain recently and that is the way he describes the precursor to poetry. It seems to me the people who are the really great writers are the ones that get the most of that into the words.
Photo by TerryBrock (Flickr). CC BY-NC 2.0.