After Hopkins


This is quickly becoming one of my favourite techniques: running a poem multiple times through Google Translate in a variety of languages -- sometimes chosen by their first letter, their region, jumping around to unrelated languages, or randomly. What comes out is often very interesting. I then sculpt the results, tinkering with phrasing and images, but usually there are several surprising and arresting images that have turned up and my job is to highlight them, or get the less interesting stuff out of the way. Sometimes I do a little associational thinking,such as changing the line to a line that has some of the same sounds through a kind of homophonic translation, or else changing images so that they rhyme with each other. In the poem below, there were some lines about olive oil and some word beginning with M. I cut out the olive oil line and changed the M word to "Merlot."

I find this technique very generative. It jumps me into a place where I am exploring and playing and also, feeling this kind of creative looseness. This enables some interesting and surprising form and content but also opens me up to putting in things that are hanging around in my mind or in the zeitgeist. I guess because my role is to "find" the poem in the text that I've generated, I'm open to what that might be—what it might refer to and what it might look like. Also, I'm piggybacking on the backs of giants, or at least their word choices and their forms and structure. I'm not tied to either but all of a sudden I'm in conversation with them. And my sense of the original, the sense of the writer, the sense of moment all get folded into it.  I find this a very fruitful place to be.

BTW the original poem is God's Grandeur Gerard Manley Hopkins. It's here.


The movies are on fire with fire. With movies. The world is 

            responsible. Why Don't People Want to Move?

Because of pants. BTW belts were worn.

              Everything is full of advertising; problems explode.

              Remove human dust.

naked & barefoot, now!


[not yet completed]

               The source of life is new life

In the west, the lights are on but also off

                Morning teaches that morning teaches

The spirit of Merlot heals

                I feel chickens all over the world with a strong hand


Drew said…
What a great idea!
I love the generative seed this plants.

Can't wait to try it -- thanks for sharing your fun process.