[from Kent Johnson's "Notes on Notes on Translation," Jacket 36, 2008]
21. To translate is to learn how poetry is written. Nothing else is so successful a teacher, for it carries no baggage of self-expression.
To translate is also to more deeply learn, and marvel at, how grammar works — in one’s own language and in another. And it is to begin, however tenuously, to learn and marvel (this via J.H. Prynne) at the mysterious space or interval between languages — that shimmering area between repelling poles of grammar, which traces or residues of meaning cannot traverse. An area which is very much at the heart of poetry’s substance, perhaps . . .