Wednesday, February 11, 2009

more on translation

In After Lorca, Jack Spicer's brilliant book of Lorca translations, Spicer writes (to Lorca):
I yell "Shit" down a cliff at an ocean. Even in my lifetime the immediacy of that word will fade. It will be dead as "Alas." But if I put the real cliff and the real ocean into the poem, the word "Shit" will ride along with them, travel the time-machine until cliffs and oceans disappear.
I love this. In part, I see it as naive (not Spicer himself, but the statement): the idea that the immediacy of "Shit" is possible to convey. But what I consider most important about this statement is the recognition that language is not just words, but necessarily the space that those words take place in*. I want all my poetry to be a translation of the space it "takes place" in. Pretty much, most of the poetry I like accomplishes this in different ways. In fact, I'll even say (with no intent of later defending myself) that all successful poetry (whatever that is) accomplishes this in its some way. Spicer obviously informs my views of this to an extent, although I'm pretty sure I'm taking his statements at least slightly different than he actually meant them. For instance (and here's where things get real, by which I mean convoluted), language inhabits space, but it also forms its own environment. Yelling "Shit" down the cliff translates the space itself into the word (litho-alveolar fricative?). I'm not sure if this view contradicts what Spicer means when he later, in the same letter, derides poets who "pick up words from the street, from their bars, from their offices and display them proudly in their poems". How better to translate PLACE into the poem than with the speech that takes place there? I'd say that that's not quite what he means? What does he mean then? I really hope he doesn't mean that one has to "set the scene" by describing it (Fuck that).

All poems are translations, all translations are NEW poems.

And perhaps I'll go back on what I said. It's not that poems "should" be translations of the space they take place in, it's that all language is a translation of its environment. Various poems realize this more than others.

What is this poast even about? Here are some more of my translations of Vallejo:

Trilce I

Who are faced with tantric bulls? and now return
testing the island that squares in?

a little more consideration
around a saving tardiness. The soprano
of temperature around the aquatic mayor.
The batshit, the simple calibrated tide
on the brine of conquerors

in the insulated heart,

I greet the prison, the house haloed with
ideas in groups

a little more consideration
and the manic liquid, sized with tardiness

And the peninsula parades
for the shore, appropriated imperative
on the mortal line of equilibrium

Trilce XVIII

Oh the four paradigms of the cell
Ah the four paradigms with bared teeth
who, for remedy, danced prismed by number

frozen nerves, wretched breeching
for the four rings around arrangements,
the diaries of abhorred extremities.

Amorous lever of innumerable halves:
yes for studious water
yes for stable beer
honorable son of four paradigms
against the ceremonious cheering, The Twos
Yet More Two with Zero, And our honorable
Demonic Liberty

Ah, the paradigms of the cell.
I yield to duel entrances, my
last Two enlargements squared with night.
Serious Mother who shuts out death
haven for prominent declination,
a Sole woman with single hands,

And, solo, I vow, weighed down with distribution,
with the patter of ambling hands.

In alto, in the cheek of a tertiary arm
whose breathing pupil enters my double and my quadruple
is the mayor of my invalid man.

*I recognize that it's possible to interpret my saying this as a contradiction of my earlier defense of Flarf, and of collage in general. It is not a condradiction, but I also don't feel the need to explain myself at the moment. Maybe later.

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