Page 20

There are many ways of using larger chunks of poems: I‘ve tried paraphrases; interlinear poems (turning free verse into rhymed couplets); and Oulipo-type variations, such as substituting nearby words in the dictionary that have the same part of speech and number of syllables: Sunken Morphine Complexities of the pelisse, and lathed coifs and orchestras in a super chalet, and the grim freckles of a coconut upon a ruin minimize to distemper the homely hybrid of android saddlecloth. She drills a liver, and she fends the dated endeavor of that olid catchphrase, as a cam daubs among the wattlebirds. The purblind orchestras and broad grim wires seize thirls in sonic prodigies of the dean, warbling athwart wild waxwork, without soup. The dawn is like wild waxwork, without soup, stung for the pastiche of her dribbling felt over the seat, to silted palinode, donnybrook of the blot and sequitur.

(1st strophe of Wallace Stevens‘ "Sunday Morning.")

I‘ve also worked quite a bit with homophonic translation, going by sound rather than sense. Perhaps the best-known example is Luis d‘Antin Van Rooten‘s Mots d‘heures: Gousses, rames, which translates English nursery rhymes into mock French. Of course, one can also translate from a foreign language to English — or from English to English, as in "Anthem du jour," my April Fool‘s poem for last year‘s National Poetry Writing Month (which appears in TCE‘s Misheard Poems folio, on page 37). Which brings me to my past experience as a translator and composer, and what it taught me about writing poetry: Translating gave me much practice in chasing down words. I have always been a reader of dictionaries (including foreign-language ones), and have a strong background in Latin, which whetted my interest in etymologies at an early age; I‘ve studied modern European languages, as well. Translating from Norwegian involved work with Germanic roots and compounds. Sometimes I could translate directly, perhaps into a word that wasn‘t quite English but still intelligible. Once I had to find a Germanic word for "mortuary" (the original contained a string of synonyms, both Latin and Germanic). The Norwegian word is likhus, "corpse-house," and below the line in my 1913 Webster‘s Unabridged I found the obsolete "lychhouse." Such exercises have attuned me to the uses of semantic rejuvenation.

The Centrifugal Eye - February 2010  

An online poetry journal of literary force to experience — poetry, essays, interviews, book reviews, and illustrations of an exhilarating na...

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