A few years ago I did a post about homophonic translations, where the translator tries to preserve the sound of the original poem; blind translations (from Cipher Journal, which publishes “creative works of art & literature that call attention to the process of translation”) are superficially similar but turn out much better to my mind:
Blind Translations (elsewhere known as homophonic translations) are a fine blend of translation & creativity: the poet-translator can neither speak nor read the poem’s original language but has formed a translation nonetheless. The linguistic materials are laid bare as acrylic in an abstract painting, and the poetic result is at once a rigidly excising form poem and a tribute to Surrealism, an extension of avant-gardist poetic activity spanning many traditions.
I don’t agree with the identification with homophonic translations, since in my experience the latter are done with an awareness of the original text’s meaning and a stronger commitment to keeping the sound; these, at least from the examples they give, use the sound/look of the original as a springboard to inspire a new poem in English, and I think utter ignorance of the meaning is a help to producing good work. Here’s a brief example; the original is by the Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun, the “translation” by John Bradley:
Yes, you, my angel.
You used to, possibly in a cradle
Slowly but always sooner.
A meadow talking in its sleep.
Barely gone no beetle pulls you.
I ravine your oxygen.
Just please slap me pretty hard.
My Slovenian is nonexistent, but with the help of a dictionary plus general knowledge of Slavic [plus bulbul’s comment—thanks!] I can tell you that the original (below the fold) means ‘You are my angel / mouth sprinkled with chalk / I am a servant of the ceremony. / Untouched [intact/virgin] // White mushrooms on a white field. / In a plain of fire. // I walk on golden dust.’
Ti si moj angel.
Usta, posuta s kredo
Služabnik obreda sem.
Bele gobe na belem polju.
V ravnini ognja.
Jaz po zlatem prahu hodim.
(Via wood s lot.)