17th May 2021

One of the things I most enjoy teaching is literary translation – the process of transforming a sophisticated German text into English. At its best, this is not simply ‘getting the meaning across’, but an act of creative writing, as a translator conjures up equivalent sounds, images and poetic effects for the new readership.

Most of us owe the fact that we can read the Bible to translators – a debt we acknowledge in the very name of our church. But Bible translation obviously didn’t stop with Tyndale. And reading new translations can help us see perhaps over-familiar words and stories in startling new ways and prompt us to engage afresh with the messages behind them.

I’m currently reading Malcolm Guite’s David’s Crown, a reworking of the Psalter as a series of 15-line poems, where the last line of each becomes the first line of the next, and the final line of the collection is the same as the first. This traditional ‘corona’ or crown form has obvious contemporary relevance as Guite reimagines the psalms for our times, ‘a chaplet of praise to garland the head of the one who wore the corona spinea, the crown of thorns for us, and who has suffered with us through the corona pandemic’ (Guite, xv). At a time when it has sometimes felt difficult to know what or how to pray, Guite’s verses have enabled the ancient words of despair, anger, but ultimately trust to resonate again, and made me profoundly grateful both for the living word that inspires, and the gifts the Creator God has bestowed on writers and artists of all kinds.

Debbie Pinfold