Daniel Weissbort

Daniel Weissbort was born in London in 1935. At the beginning of his studies at the University of Cambridge he met Ted Hughes, the future British Poet Laureate. In 1965 Weissbort and Hughes founded the journal »Modern Poetry in Translation«, which is still appearing today. In the early 1970s he went to America and from 1974 he directed Translation Workshops at the University of Iowa, where he was a professor of English and Comparative Literature. From 1970 to 1973 Weissbort was advisory director of English Poetry International, London, and was a member of numerous other committees, including the PEN American Center Translation Committee. Since then he has returned to England, where he writes poetry, teaches, lectures and works on the translation and popularization of Russian literature with his partner Valentina Polukhina. Weissbort is best known for his translations and anthologies of Russian and Eastern European poetry, but he is also recognized as a poet in his own right. His collection of poetry, »Letters to Ted« (2002) is dedicated to his friend and colleague of many years, Ted Hughes. In 2006, Weissbort published a book on the history of translation theory, “Translation: Theory and Practice”, with Astradur Eysteinsson.

Ted Hughes commented: »It’s hard to imagine how anything could be more natural, relaxed and true to the writer’s self, true to his secret, personal life, than Daniel Weissbort’s poems.« They are snapshots of innermost feelings. These snapshots are short and some are aphoristic, yet they provide deep insight into emotions, individual perceptions and thoughts. Private and political perspectives cross; historical developments are combined with personal events, for example when he associates the end of the Second World War in the poem »1945« with his initial successes in cricket. Weissbort converses with himself, with his ageing body as well as with his thoughts; his memories, world history, the life story of his deceased parents. Many of his poems are devoted to the topic of memories, they contain dedications to dead or lost friends. A recurring theme is that of dreams, for example the terrible moment of awaking from a nightmare whose fearful impressions linger: »And yet / for certain sins, though you wake / there is no forgiveness either«.

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