The lyric present in English translations of Russian poetry
A case study of English versions of Anna Akhmatova’s poems
Taking English translations of Anna Akhmatova’s poems as a case study, this article investigates whether the lyric present (a specific use of simple present forms in poetry) is the preferred present tense in poetic translations from Russian into English. Akhmatova’s verbal craft is remarkably relevant for the issue at hand because of her extensive exploration of temporal levels. The article examines what stylistic effects stem from a translator’s choice between the lyric present and the present progressive. In order to provide a more general view of English translations, the study includes data concerning the frequency of progressives contained in two different English editions of Akhmatova’s poetry. These data are presented in the comparative perspective, together with data collected from English and American poetry and from English renditions of several Russian poets.
Keywords: lyric present, present progressive, Anna Akhmatova, poetic translation, time
Published online: 12 July 2019
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