I have been doing some translation work this summer. Almost by accident, I picked up a book by Andrés Sánchez Robayna (a poet from the Canary Islands) that I had lying around. I memorized a few poems, then realized that some might be good candidates for translation. I posted one or two on my blog, and a friend of mine who happens to be poetry editor for The Nation wrote me that he liked it and wanted to see more. About the same time, another internet friend, Matt, asked me for translations for another journal that he is involved in. I translated some more from this book.
Then I decided to send some more of these translations to The New Yorker and Poetry, as my friend from The Nation suggested. Now I have a good number of poems translated and am thinking about a Selected Poems in English by this poet. I'll be presenting some of this material in a reading at The Raven next Thursday.
What I find therapeutic about translation is the lack of ego. I can be the medium for the work of another poet. Unlike criticism, the point is not how smart I am. I do think I have considerable "chops" as translator, in all [lack of] modesty, but nothing really depends on this talent. In some sense, it is the missing piece of my scholarly career.
I consider the act of translation to be sacred, in the sense that the poetry itself is. The other poet speaks through me. In the [relative] egolessness of translation there is a kind of purity that I find attractive, in days in which the scholarly enterprise seems to be lagging behind. I'll always do scholarship, but I could see myself being mostly a translator for the next 20 years.