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Ruin by Luke McMullan

Price: $16.00

Ruin Luke McMullan BlazeVOX [books]

 ‘The Ruin’ is the remaining fragment of an eighth-century Anglo-Saxon poem that describes the collapsed arches and rubble-strewn site of the old Roman baths at the city of Bath. Here Luke McMullan offers a translation in two strands that cross—poem and gloss—with the generous gift also of a scaffolding: word-tables that reveal for a reader the possible constellations of meanings of the poem’s key words, situating this gorgeous text within the history of its previous translation. You’ll want to re-read this book in multiple directions. In this sense, RUIN is a complex essay on the thinking of translation over time, as well as an articulate and lapidary ear-led celebration of the enduring energies of a poem about place, architecture, resurgence and memory in and as language. These energies loop enthrallingly in McMullan’s version, bringing us circuitously to the notion that language is not a system of signs, but a mud-flecked knotwork of attractions, mysteriously and often achingly incomplete, yet fundamentally comedic.

—Lisa Robertson

A manuscript in ruins sends to us the poem of a ruined city, its cell-like wall burst and permeable to outside influence. The poem, damaged by fire, attains a kind of precocious modernity, its alliterative lines giving way to fragments suspended in an open field. In RUIN, Luke McMullan accepts this formal challenge to erect, page by page, a fascinating block of translations and substitutions, from rhymed and alliterative verse, through homophonic translation (Old English heard as Ulster Scots) to found text and attempts at a synthesis. If the Anglo-Saxons chose not to dwell in Roman ruins, for fear of raising ghosts, McMullan is a gleeful reanimator, inhabiting every possible space in the sound, syntax and vocabulary of his original, and finding poetry in the dictionary’s absolute lack of authority. Mallarmé suggested that the pages of a book, settled into thickness, present to us the soul’s resting place: in RUIN the tomb is broken, the genie at large, the book one restless upshot of an age of mass bombings.

—Peter Manson

Luke McMullan’s experiment in poetic 'thick translation' defies the common notion of a translation as a substitute for the original text. Instead, the poet-translator offsets the text, a ruin, with multiple translations done according to different methods, like Mount Fuji in Hokusai’s woodblock series, and with multiple commentaries on the language of the original. This elegant little book is itself an allegory of translation—and of reading in general—as an act of encountering, rather than appropriating, the Other.

—Eugene Ostashevsky

Luke McMullan is from Belfast in Northern Ireland, studied English at Cambridge, and now divides his time between New York and London while he completes a PhD on the history of philology.

This is his first book of translations. His other translation work has included Russian and German.

Previous books: Dolphin Aria/Limited Hours: A Love Song (BlazeVOX, 2015); n. (Wide Range, 2012)

Book Information:

· Paperback: 82 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-285-3


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