The poetry of Erna Bennett

by Luigi Guarino on June 29, 2012

There’s an obituary of Erna Bennett by Peter Hanelt, Helmut Knüpffer and Karl Hammer of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, Germany in the latest Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. It reveals a side of Erna that was new to me:

In Erna’s own words, her life was devoted to “science, politics and poetry”. The particular circumstances determined which of these aims dominated in a given life period, but always all of them interfered with each other. Her very successful role in science is obvious. With respect to her political activities, her major regret was that they did not bear more fruit (Jackson 2012). Her passion for poetry is possibly only known to smaller circles. Several of her own poems were successful in poetry contests. Knowledge of foreign languages (she spoke fluently English, Greek, Italian, could understand German and Spanish) facilitated her access to foreign literature and allowed her to understand it in its original form. Erna admired, among others, the poems of Pablo Neruda, and she transferred this special taste to some of us. Motives of her own verses, especially from the last years of her life, were severe disagreements with actual political developments. In her article “Translating Poetry” (Bennett 2002c), she reflected about poetry translations: “Where the music is dominant in the original work, as in the ancient sagas and epic poems, the translator rightly concentrates on the music.”

Contact Helmut Knüpffer for a reprint.

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