Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What is the opposite of a poem? of poppy? of cloud?

Gregory Betts and I have been exploring translations of canonical texts. He came up with the idea of doing antonymic translations--translating the texts into their opposite. But what exactly is opposite? The opposite of 'faith', or 'up,' or 'sleep', is more-or-less straightforward. But what is the opposite of cloud? Of poppy?

There's an antonymic translation on the left side of our dual translation of Robbie Burns' "Old Lang Syne" published as a broadside entitled New Lang(uage) Sign by BookThug. Both the texts are also homophonic translations, that is, they sound like the original but with different words. (The  broadside is available, by the way, from BookThug. You get it for free if you order our collaborative book, The Obvious Flap. It'd be a bargain with half as much polysemia.)

Today, my daughter had John McCrae's iconic In Flanders Fields open on my computer for a school essay. And so, flu-fuzzy and cold-hazed, I created the following antonymic poem based on that famous poem. I translated antonymically the 'sense' not line by line but more-or-less verse by verse. I'm thinking of it as an antinomian translation, just the act of translating, of engaging with the original poem, of keeping faith with it, is enough.

But, considering the meaning of the original, perhaps my text is a anti-antinomian translation.


high above y axis flowers
clouds scud
the X axis sky

we are the breath of larks’

we have lived long
dawn mourns us
twilight gapes

those who love us
were loved
walk away Cartesian

reader: embrace
those we agree with
let the light fail

else darkness gasps you
clouds rush our sleep
and poppy mouths

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