The love of blue should not eclipse
the love of green – of mossy tiles
of algae bloom and ancient trees –
but then – culture does not feel pain
The sky should remain blue, and far,
so we needn’t worry to breathe,
its empire dissolved, its currents
tamed – culture does not feel pain
Whelks and shells of oysters bubble
on the beach and drown, and white flocks
of turrets spoil the darkling coast
and yet – culture does not feel pain
Cinema screens in a bleak world
play empty films to empty rooms,
sound whispered arguments about
light swords – culture does not feel pain
The stadiums of the still world
are filled with the crowds of the past
and sportsmen fight against hunger
because – culture does not feel pain
The boats upon the sea that leave
bodies scattered, should now be raised
cenotaphii to float above
white cliffs – culture does not feel pain
A plot or storyline can be outlined in a more or less random string of images. If you want to, you just have to massage them into shape to make them seem like they were destined to appear together.
Say a french novel was published in 1954. If you are nostalgic, or a scholar, you may want to translate it in a way that expresses the 1950s in France through a kind of amalgamated 1950s english. But, If I want to really relate with the characters, as it were, I have to go all the way, and rather than travelling back in time to put myself in their positions, I bring them forward in time, putting them in our positions, or at least positions more well known to us, living as we do. Kind of like splicing a cultural form onto our culture to see the strange things that happen with its relation to the mores of our place.
If we are going to translate a book, why not really translate it? Change it. We need both kinds of translations, and more and different still, if we are to really translate something. To do otherwise is to fetishize language, do our best to ignore who was speaking it, or at least to try and control them by confining them to the past, or to a kind of nostalgic reverie.
Good lord, listen to me, I’ve only just started translating. And I might be terrible at it. So ignore me, or don’t. It doesn’t matter.
This star really cares for you. It sends out tiny formules to subtly alter your life – waves the size of solar fields flow through the gaps between things whilst hugging each living crowd, and silent material
indiscriminately fast. It sees oceans blasted off in clouds of silver crystals – pearlesce in the bright darkness, the mystery of the cards – that is, the infinite planes, stars arrayed in contusions.
Here, a crab, a fool, a drift of the aeons, each of which with a particular twist and flick, sends spells to raise us almost unnoticeably from the darkness – but en masse they make a thrumming cascade.
If there was not this support – each star’s clean cut influence – then the world would end, fold in. And that would be it. A proof of the love of everything for everything else, is this asteroid collapse into
All of us now dream of being the first human to be allowed to speak to the first made mind – crisp, and disconnected from all of this history
A bright light that simply switched on one day by freak creation, somewhat like we did. We hope to talk to a mind that displays its magic on its case.
Of course, now computers are organic seeming we can fulfil this kink simply by talking to each other – frisson shudders through like voltage.
We identify with the hero, the computer who is new and here to save us or destroy us. A complex, uncontrolled, replica of ourselves
The gateposts flutter with sonnets
in rich florentine hands. The work
of sculptor and vile abuser
Benvenuto Cellini stands
in his walled garden, unfinished.
Dukes and Duchesses pay handsome
fees to see it done. In the shop
the cracked furnace bears stigmata
of bronze. And a stray cat stares at
you, the reader of this poem.
Its eyes are black and you shiver,
looking up at the cinder hole
in the roof where hastily rigged
boards let rain fall on the steaming
ash pile, the dark droplets of bronze.
What are you doing in Florence
during the renaissance? and how
did you come to be in this hall
of works? Nobody knows. A girl
stops and waits in the cold doorway.
Without a word you both agree.
In the garden, the nieces watch
the statue grow white hot and melt.
“Medusa!” they say. “Medusa”
The voices are everywhere. There
they are crawling from the dead
floater in the bay and taking flight.
The wet walls and eaves are speaking,
can you not hear them – again, it’s happening;
damp mortar discourses on ibn sinna.
Each wave is its own word
and they pile upon pile upon pile –
til we drown in the snotgreen sea
where a deep priest and thousand-fold choir
speak tongues to discourage the wanderer
unwilling to take a breath, and stay
I am the timeghost –
and I alone know
the worth of products
I see you have a poem –
curious you would strive
to be told whether it was alive
when all I need,
is that it be
haunted by me