Sunday, April 04, 2010

On homophonoquasilexical translation

a visual translation of/for Bob Cobbing

I often use the homophonic translation technique -- creating texts based on the sounds of words in different languages. Sometimes, I use a hybrid technique, translating some of the words into their equivalent English, and then using the homophonic technique for the others. I usually am fairly loose with the result, modifying it as if it were just another draft poem of mine, playing with it until I'm happy with it as a poem. I, of course, lay no claim to its 'authenticity' as a translation. The end result may be wildly divergent from the original, or it may reflect something about the original's tone, structure, lexicon, subject, or something else more difficult to pin down.

Here are three stages in this process. The first is the original Heinrich Heine poem in German. The section is what I gleaned from an online translator. The third, my poem EVERTHELESS which will appear this fall in my Coach House Book, The Porcupinity of the Stars. The book includes a number of kinds of translation in it, mostly from German poets such as Rilke and Heine.


Original Heine Sonnet in German:

Ich lache ob den abgeschmackten Laffen,
Die mich anglotzen mit den Bocksgesichtern;
Ich lache ob den Füchsen, die so nüchtern
Und hämisch mich beschnüffeln und begaffen.

Ich lache ob den hochgelahrten Affen,
Die sich aufblähn zu stolzen Geistesrichtern;
Ich lache ob den feigen Bösewichtern,
Die mich bedrohn mit giftgetränkten Waffen.

Denn wenn des Glückes hübsche Siebensachen
Uns von des Schicksals Händen sind zerbrochen,
Und so zu unsern Füßen hingeschmissen;

Und wenn das Herz im Leibe ist zerrissen,
Zerrissen, und zerschnitten, und zerstochen -
Dann bleibt uns doch das schöne gelle Lachen.

Read through an online translator:

I laugh whether the abgeschmackten Laffen,
me anglotzen with the support faces.
I laugh whether the foxes, which begaffen so soberly
and haemisch me beschnueffeln
and I laugh myself
whether the hochgelahrten apes aufblaehn to proud spirit judges.
I laugh whether the cowardly Boesewichtern,
me bedrohn with poison-soaked weapons.
Because if luck pretty filter things us
are from the fate hands broken,
and so too unsern feet hingeschmissen,
and if the heart in the body is
torn up, tore up, cut, and zerstochen
then the beautiful gelle laughter remains for us nevertheless.

My final version:


I laugh whether or not the gobsmacked laugh—
me with the snorting face and short memory—
I laugh whether the foxes, which began so soberly
ended snuffling and begging
and I laugh myself
whether or not the blind beergarden apes were proud to be judges
or whether the cowardly midwinter boys made
me bedridden with poison-soaked weapons.
Because if luck filters pretty things
and fate gives us broken hands
to hinge and squeal and kiss
and if the heart in the body is
torn up, tore up, cut and restocked
still the beautiful laughter remains
dusky and firefly
left with the ashes

1 comment:

mike di tomasso said...

awesome stuff!