Toward a Poetics of Polyphony and Translatability

Dennis Tedlock

in Close Listening

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195109924
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855261 | DOI:
Toward a Poetics of Polyphony and Translatability

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If a poem is supposed to consist of exactly the right words and no others, then there are multiple worlds in which poems are never quite finished. In some of these worlds poets use writing that requires a text to be fixed for all times and places. Each of the poetic moves in this first of all human sentences can be found elsewhere in Quiche and other Mayan poetry. There are times when parallel words or phrases converge on saying nearly the same thing, which also sheds light on how contemporary speakers of Quiche, constructing the relationship between language and experience. Whether parallel words or phrases refer to the same object, or else point to objects, they constantly work against the notion that an isomorphism between words and their objects could actually be realized.

Keywords: poetics of polyphony; translatability; Quiche; Mayan poetry; parallel words

Chapter.  9385 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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