Thursday, July 09, 2009

Three identical Rilkes and their Rilke-faced baby



I've been working again on some 'translations' of Rilke. I begin by working through the text using a homophonic translation technique, with some digressions into actual word translation when I happened to know the German word. Also, in this case, I had an initial inspiration from reading an actual translation of a Rilke poem posted on Gabe Gudding's blog. That's where the stars/pillows stanza has its origin. And the title "that's what Rilke sd to do with sorrow" also was in my mind. (Actually, I originally had "I mailed out boxes of sorrow" in the second stanza, but deleted 'sorrow' as I wanted to keep the text more referentially open and to save the sorrow/crying image for the pillow stanza.)

So, after the initial homophonic translation in which I never actually accounted for every word or stanza, I was fairly free in adding lines, rearranging, revising, and taking the text as if it were just a poem to be edited (which, of course, it is) as opposed to a 'translation.' The idea, in this case, being that the 'translation' was a technique to get me to a text, and not a specific formal constraint. I do know that this poem needs to sit a while, ripen, or fester, for me to know exactly what else it needs.

I think techniques like homophonic translation can be good starters for poems, one of many investigative or opening gambits that a writer may use. And always, the writer may feel free to apply techniques without rigour, lazily, sloppily, with one partial commitment. Whatever seems right at the time in order to generate something of interest to them, something that jibes with their creative process at the time.


My right eye is a blur
as it passes my left
in the fast lane

I mailed out boxes
to some poet friends
perhaps they’ll know what to do
They write:

o warm guitars,
o houses
o bending light
o the hang of things

an animal brings you to the edge of darkness
leaves you there unharmed
though of course some write
‘unarmed’

we imagine that stars are pillows to cry on
but by the time we plunk our heads down
the pillows may not exist

o the ganglia of years
those distant and angry angels
undaring and arrogant
making a church for our dreams
their fingers squirming around
our insides and spires

one day, you will realize
my father said
is better than two

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