Recently Carol Rumens addressed the pleasures and frustrations of translation on the UK Guardian's book blog, partly in response to an earlier review of a translation of Paul Celan's poetry. An excerpt from the blog post:
So why translate? My first answer is that poetry in translation simply adds to the sum total of human pleasure obtainable through a single language. It opens up new language worlds within our own tongues, as every good poem does. It revitalises our daily, cliche-haunted vocabulary. It disturbs our assumptions, jolts us with rhythms flatter or stronger than we're used to. It extends us in the way real travelling does, giving us new sounds, sights and smells. Every unique poetry village sharpens us to life.
Some people would disagree, saying poetry in translation is the wrong side of the tapestry - it just can't be done. But they are talking about replication, not translation. It is perfectly true that you will never get a replica of the original - nor would you wish to. The way it works, when translator and original are in tune, is that a third poem is created. It is the child of two parents and simply couldn't exist without them.
How poor modern Anglophone poetry would be without Edwin Morgan's Mayakovsky, Anne Carson's Sappho or Mark Musa's Dante; without George Szirtes's Hungarian poets or Ian and Jarmila Milner's Czechs. What a loss to the itinerary if we didn't have the journal Modern Poetry in Translation to transport our imaginations across the globe in 80 seconds."