Translating cultures in the English translation of Cirilo F. Bautista’s Sugat ng Salita (1986)

Author: Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita (De La Salle University, The Philippines)
Speaker: Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita
Topic: Poetics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


The study uses the English translation of the Tagalog poem—Sugat ng Salita (1986, trans. Wounds of Words, forthcoming)—the last and the longest poem in the first poetry collection in the Tagalog vernacular of Philippine National Artist for Literature—Cirilo F. Bautista—to foreground that poetic translation is (1) a culturally determined act, and (2) an act of transposing not only texts, but cultures. Siting the study within the cultural turn in Translation Studies, the poet-translator cites Even-Zohar’s polysystem (1978) and Lefevere’s rewriting: ideology, patron, and poetics (1985) to discourse culture and the translation of cultures in the English translation of C.F. Bautista’s modern Tagalog verse. Reflecting on the translation product(ion), the study reveals that (1) the author(ity), Cirilo F. Bautista, and the other author(ity), Jose Garcia Villa, and their respective works in Poetry and Poetics are polysystems that regulated the translation of Sugat ng Salita; (2) the ideology, patron, and poetics of the Formalist Strain in Philippine Poetry (Abad, 2009) and Modernism in American Poetry (Villa, 2015) privileged (a) aesthetics as ideology, (b) Formalists/New Critics as patrons, and (c) formalism as poetics in rewriting the poem; and, (3) the translation’s adequacy and acceptability depended heavily on the transposition of cultural forces that had acted on the writing of the verse. The study opines that culture is at work in poetic translation, and the crucial task of the poet-translator is to acknowledge the centrality of culture in translation, making translation an act of translating not only texts, but cultures.

Keywords: Literary translation, Philippine poetry, Cirilo F. Bautista, Sugat ng Salita, cultural poetics