This study explores the possibility, despite skepticism from both scholars and practitioners, of aiming for a relatively, if not perfectly, faithful translation of poetic form, through an analysis of five different Korean translations of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 320 (“There’s a certain Slant of light”).
Dickinson’s poetry was selected as the subject for this study for its traditional prosody, which at the same time engages in experimentation in both form and content, resulting in a formal construct that is singularly distinctive in style.
The analysis is based on close readings of the original poem and the choices that each translation is built on in terms of “comparative versification,” as theorized by James W. Underhill.
The study finds that while the existing translations do not actively take on the challenge of versification, several successful isolated attempts at translating Dickinson’s trochaic meter into syllabic meter in Korean, which presents a possibility for a creative transposition of lyric form in verse translation. However, the complicated relationship between verse and prose in Korean writing poses a significant challenge for translating poetry and developing strategies for comparative versification.