The Scope of Translatability in Poetry


  • Salar Manafi Anari


In poetry the writing is in a compact and condensed form and the language is more emotional and connotational rather than referential or denotational. In this kind of writing and language the content and container are so inseparably linked together that if separated from one another in the process of translation, much will be lost of the ineffable emotional meaning and the formal features and delicacies of the original, as most of the poetic characteristics resist translation and remain untranslatable. One cannot translate the musical sound, the inner rhythm, the connotational information, and other essential characteristics of a poetic discourse without radical adjustments and transformations, in which almost all the poetic devices and innate subtleties of the source text will be lost. The scope of translatability in poetic discourse is a major debate within translation studies. Robert Frost maintains that ‘poetry is what is lost in translation’, Roman Jakobson’s resolute belief is that poetry is by definition untranslatable, and Shelley believes essentially in the impossibility of poetical translation. Some other scholars, however, argue that all meanings are always translatable and what can be conveyed in one language can be conveyed in another, too. In this article we survey different theories regarding the translatability and/or untranslatability of poetry and come to this conclusion that neither possibility nor impossibility of poetry translation should be recognized in an absolute sense. A message can essentially be conveyed in any natural language; it is only the form of communication which differs in different languages as well as in poetry and prose. Thus, although it is possible to translate a poetic discourse in a way acceptable in the target language, it is impossible to convey all the poetic features and subtleties of the original in the translation.



How to Cite

Manafi Anari, S. (2003). The Scope of Translatability in Poetry. Iranian Journal of Translation Studies, 1(1). Retrieved from



Academic Research Paper

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>