Sunday, September 05, 2010

In a Suburb of the Spirit (Homophonic Series)

I've mentioned this series of poems before. It's three poems from my sonnet book Nervous Songs, published 1986, followed by four homophonic translations of the same. Homophonic translation is English to English translation to other words and phrases similar in sound to the original. Here I present only one of the series.

In a Suburb of the Spirit

Everything has happened. Nothing is quite new.
Summer is so old it wrinkles at the edges.
Nothing is surprising. Nothing should alarm.
It’s the same old rain over and over.
The sun is old, and the light is so decrepit
it lies flat on the ground and can't get up again.
Even your anger is old. It’s large or small,
but all of your life it’s been the same. Then

everything is new. Nothing ever ages. There
was no wind until just now, no glacier until you
thought of it. Fish change every second. Every glance
makes a new landscape, and the sea has a stiff new shine
as it moves around on crutches. Clouds are shaped
like typewriters. Things amaze. Nothing dies.

The very inch is a gap-end. Nothing is quite true.
Summer is so cold it buckles and fledges.
Nothing’s enterprising. Nothing good swarms.
It’s the same old game, cover to cover.
A hand is gold, and the blight is so electric
it lies flat as a hound and can’t get it up again.
Even your anger is moldy in a barge or mall.
Bunt all your life—shit’s been the same. Blend

every inch, it’s true: nothing never rages. Harry
washes no windows until just now, no glaziers under glue.
Dock off it. Fish change every session. The very glance
shakes the blue land’s shape; the lea’s a stiff blue line.
Such proofs are not hunches. Clouds are shaped
like bike riders. Das Ding’s ablaze. Nothing flies.

Everything is a mapping. No mapping in life’s view.
Summer is so cold it drinks from our ledges.
Nothing is surpassing. Nothing should conform.
It’s the same cold rain that covers like a lover.
The gun is sold, and the night is given credit.
Shit lies flat on the ground and cants back up again.
Even our strangers grow cold. It’s Marge or Paul.
But tall as your life it’s been the same. Then

everything is true. Nothing ever fades. There
was no ink until just now, no eraser until truth
doubted it. A leash hangs every second. Every hand
wants a good handshake, and the sea has a stiff tune’s cry
as it grooves on down and fusses. The proud are shaped
like typed letters. Lingering amazement. Nothing hides.

Every sin is sharp. Not every sin’s quite you.
Some are so bold they rankle at the pledging.
No sin is surprising. No sin, if good, can harm.
Sin’s the same old game, forever like a river.
The sun is gold, and its flight is so perfected
it buys back the ground and can’t get wet again.
Even the danger is old. It’s marginal or all,
but all your life it’s been no gain. Sin’s

very sting is new. No sin ever ages. There
was no sin until just now, no engagement if you
shouted it. Bliss changes every stone. Air and sand
create chance states, and the knee has a lively shine
that loves the ground it touches. The proud are shaped
like tightrope walkers. Things are crazy. Something dies.

Air and singing wraps us. No singing is quite pure.
Some are so low they sink at the pledging.
No singing is surprising. Not singing good alarms.
The same cold rain falls over and over.
The stunned are cold, and their plight so expected
it lies back like a sound and can’t erupt again.
Even our language is old. It’s dark or it’s cold,
but, small as life, it rains in Spain. Against

each singing, truth. No singing on pages. There
was no singing until the hour, no lazy air until truth’s
caught in it. A wish sings every second. Every mansion
breaks a loose handshake, and steel has the gift of shining
as it moves around in a funk. The bound are taped
to the skylights. Sing unfazed. No singing signs.

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At 7:43 PM, Blogger Jacquelyn Marie said...

This is very cool! I like it very much. I've never heard of doing "homophonic" translations before but it's quite amazing.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Arash said...

Nice one.

Visit me if you have the chance.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger on My Name is GiGi Wiggins said...

This is my first visit to your blog. Cool stuff. Wonderful flow.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger MDutton said...

Nice work. I recently started a poetry blog on my poems. Check it out and tell me what you think .

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Matt Zeitlin said...

How compelling the results of this project seems to indicate its validity and possibility -- quite simply these are five good poems. I also like how doing homophonic translation seems to merge a few avant-garde concerns, namely the attention to the words themselves, independent of their assumed meaning that you see in Stein and a more contemporary determinism in the poetry, where the first poem's sonic structure greatly limits the choices and possibilities of the subsequent four. That they manage to do have conceptual coherence as well sonic coherence speaks to the skill with which they were written, while the overall creativity on display speaks to the strong idea motivating the poetry.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Quen of the Keg said...

I truly enjoyed reading your five poems on homophonic series. What I enjoyed was reading the poems as independent from the original. While the rhythm and rhyme of the poems remain constant, the beautiful homophonic replacements push language to its limits. It reminded me of Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons” where the reader can draw meaning out of the poem, although it is not explicitly there. With each one, the reader can interpret the poem in a way that is truly personal.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

This is really fantastic stuff! The flow is really beautiful, as is the continual development. Very nuanced and subtle. Great work.


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