Friday, March 02, 2012

The Louche Mirror of Kittens and the Translation of the Present

William Keckler maintains a remarkable blog entitled Joe Brainard's Pyjamas. It's the kind of place where logical kittens leap endlessly into the verbal mirror of themselves.

And speaking of being a verbal mirror of one's self, yesterday he wrote a lovely post about this blog. Thanks, William. And no frames of reference were harmed in the naming of (t)his blog, though there is an increased number of washed backs.

Elsewhere on his blog, Keckler creates a 'louche' translation of a poem of Rene Char. He discusses the notion of anachronistic translation. To quote:
Anachronistic translation can be translating a poem into a future idiom, which did not exist in the poem's lifetime, or it can the reverse of that, translation of modernity or postmodernity into archaic idioms.
And then he presents a translation of the Char poem into 'online vernacular.' (Which is why the brilliant cartoon is posted above.) I've been working on a series of homophonic Rilke translations and, thinking about Keckler's translation, I thought that I'd try that with the Char poem. Thing is, while I understand little German, I do understand a fair bit of French (though I'd be unable to say, "Please, firefighter, help me, I am on fire. I would suggest that water sprayed at me at high pressure might be effective in extinguishing the conflagration that is, currently, me.) This made the notion of 'homophonic' translation interesting. I could choose to translate the meaning of the words or just their sound. I could choose to deliberately misunderstand the meaning or  allow some of my understanding to affect how I heard a word. The original French poem, a quite literal translation, along with Keckler's 'louche' translation is here.

Commingling with the Present

Writing, you depress me 
you are really slow 
and as with life 
out of order 
and then there’s the inevitable 
procession of your sources

I hate you
I hate how you transmit
in equal parts 
the rebellion of the marvelous 
the malfeasance of the affective

you are really slow 
and as with life, inexpressive
I mean the kind of life that doesn’t appear in a primer

you say 
in the end
the only way to account for everything
is to accept it as one
refuse to separate each day from other days
each from others

Writing you say
don’t obtain, what--
thoughts, a penis, punishment?
you only give me these fragments. 
maybe its charming, maybe charnel, maybe channeled
from the boats of these belles 

I have hours or owls of you saying:

‘all isn’t agony’
or surmising when the big end will come
‘remember how long death is
how long your labour will be’

and ‘recognize something in the hidden 
sister you have found in nukes
in the handkerchief, 
in the inclination to laugh like 
you were old on the way up the roller-coaster ride’

Writing, I offer you my submission
I am armless
I have no weapons, no limbs
you created this belief in the small commingling of the moment
I modify you so that I disappear without regret
though I agree with your suave rigor

section by section
we will survive the liquidation of the pursuing world
without interruption
eagles, agreements, or equality

I have tried the quick fish
of light or of love 
but, Writing, there is nothing except 
deceleration in our union


William Keckler said...

Love where you got by homophonic translation.

I think Bernstein did that with French poetry some time back, but I don't believe I saw that chapbook.

Like Bart Simpson with the alphabet, I know "of it."

I like the way you still ended up with a poem about poetry, which is what the Char poem is, thinly disguised as an "impossible lover" poem.

Your poem is funny and barbed and filled with impossibilities.

Just like the writing life.

Bravo, Barwin!

William Keckler said...

And since I get this message all the time, I'm thinking about having this engraved in marble and inlaid with neon, as my epitaph: "The character you buried didn't match the soul verification. Please die again."