Monday, February 9, 2009

Eshleman, Vallejo, translation...

Clayton Eshleman is an important poet to me. He helped me break from my Stein/Zukofsky/NYSchool/Langpo/Flarf version of what I'll call half-carelessly call the Avant-garde. By "break from", I don't mean "leave behind" or "forget" or anything that suggests that it's any less important to me now. I just mean that I get uneasy if I suddenly realize that my influences form a coherent progression. Coherence is Coercion (I don't know that I believe this, but I think it).

It may sound strange to say Eshleman helped me break from anything "Avant-garde" as he certainly couldn't be placed outside of the Avant-garde. It was more that he helped me break from my conception of it. He helped me be more critical of Langpo which in turn renewed my love for it. He may have been what dealt the death-blow to my apolitics, already shaken loose by the Bush Jr. years. Most importantly he pushed (via Sulfer) my view of poetry outside of America, and (via Juniper Fuse) my views on poetry outside of poetry.

I almost always have Eshleman's translations of either Vallejo's Trilce or Vallejo's Complete Posthumous Poetry on me at all times. I love the energy and devotion that Eshleman has toward translation. I greatly admire the lengths he goes to translate the poems as fully and faithfully as possible. I fully understand that my view of Vallejo is entirely through Eshleman. This isn't even something I necessarily consider a "bad" thing. Our views aren't "tainted" by looking at objects through a medium since that is exactly what "viewing" is.

Nevertheless, I've undertaken a project to break from My Eshleman's Vallejo. I am interacting with Vallejo's text directly, translating Trilce in what may be the opposite manner that Eshleman has done. First of all, I don't know any Spanish, nor am I working from a dictionary, looking up any Spanish words as I translate. I am also not using any particular method of translation. Sometimes I guess, sometimes I translate homophonically, sometimes I translate what reading a line aloud in Spanish makes me think of. Generally, if I do think I know what a word means, I treat it faithfully (translating its meaning if I feel that that is its significance to the poem, or it's sound, or a hybrid). The "not getting it" aspect of poetry has always been important to me, and it's something that I think is important to Trilce. I want to interact with poems, and work "with" them, more than I want to "get" them. This forms part of how I want my poetry to resist Capitalist conceptions of property, and specifically intellectual property (contradicting this resistance is also important to me).

Here is my translation of Vallejo's Trilce II:

Tempo Tempo
Medium of Staccato enters relenting:
bombs what burrows in the archival cartel.
tempo tempo tempo tempo

Era Era
Galloping concert on escarpments of wind
pours some clarity into our daily conjugations.
era era era era

Tomorrow Tomorrow
This repose, hot with our era
Pieces our present guard in pairs.
tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow

Number Number
How can you quantify our heritage now?
Will you Retaliate with fathers?
number number number numbeR


Ms. Gretchen said...

these translations are very pleasing. specifically "tempo" and "era". i've always been intrigued by the the idea of how the language is heard/perceived by people who don't know it at all. for example, once i asked my chinese friend what english sounded like before she knew it. she found it hard to describe but said she preferred british english to american english.

Rent Party said...

Wow! I wouldn't have recommended your method at all, but I like the result quite a lot. Very interesting.

Iain said...

Thanks for reading. I do stand by my method, on the other hand, I want to be up front about what they are. I don't want to try to trick anyone into thinking they're translations in the way people usually think of them. They're still very much translations though, and I don't particularly want a modifier added to that word.