First day of class

First day of class tomorrow, a bit of butterflies now, as I always have.

Want to remember my classes go best when I don’t plan too much. Have something in mind about tearing pages and discerning poems in the strips we’ve made — as prep for the fragments we have of Sappho, many recovered from the mummies her poems were recycled to bear on in the afterworld.

Have a couple of books on hand of W.C. Williams, already spine-split and spilling their pages. They should make good material.

Am struck by — a feeling the books are sacrosanct! shouldn’t be torn with! Interesting.

Exercise: Homophonic translation

(Another of the exercises I’m giving my Art of Compost class.)

In a homophonic translation, you translate for sound, rather than for sense. For instance, this sentence in French

Je vais aujourd’hui à la maison de mon ami.

sounds roughly like

 Juh vase oh zhour dwee a la may zon de moan am ee.

And so its homophonic translation might go

Juvie, so, sure, twee. Ah, lamb, he’s on demon, am ye?

Notice how a word in the French can become two in English, or the end of one word and the start of another, in the French, can fuse to form a single English word. In other words, don’t worry about preserving the boundaries between words.

Notice, too, that the translation isn’t exact—vowel sounds shift a little, and sometimes a voiced consonant (e.g., “d”) becomes unvoiced (“t”).

The exercise. Take a passage of 50-75 words, verse or prose, in a language other than English, and do a homophonic translation into English. It’s better to choose a language that you know how to pronounce, but if there aren’t any of those, just make your best guesses.

Examples follow. You might also check out David Melnick’s Men in Aida.

Louis and Celia Zukofsky, Catullus

Source Text (Latin)

Multus home es, Naso, neque tecum multus homost qui
descendit: Naso, multus es et pathicus.

Homophonic Translation

Mool ’tis homos,’ Naso, ’n’ queer take ’im mool ’tis ho most he
descended: Naso, mool ’tis – is it pathic, cuss.

Christopher Patton, Overject

Source Text (Old English)

Frige mec frodum  wordum   nelæt þinne  ferð on
hælne degol þæt þu deopost cunne  nelle icþe min
dyrne gesecgan  gifþume  þinne hyge cræft hy
lest  ⁊þine heortan  geþohtas ∙ gleawe men sceolon gieddū
wrixlan god sceal mon ærest hergan fægre fæder user
ne forþon þehe us ætfymþe  geteode lif  ⁊lænne
willan  heusic wile þara  leana gemonian ∙ meotud sceal
inwuldre  mon sceal  oneorþan  geong ealdian god us ece
biþ ne wendað hine wyrda  nehine  wiht dreceþ adl

Homophonic Translation

Fridge me, Frodo. Um, word. Um, nail a thin firth on
hell. Ned—eagle that thou deepest can. Uh, Nellie—itch the mine,
dear. Now you sedge, an’ if thou math in how ye craft, how
lost and thin a heart an you thought as. Glue we men shall on yet. Um,
were Ixlan god, shall man arrest her gain? Fare a fader user.
Knife or than the hay us at fume. The yet ode, life and lane, uh,
will an hay us itch, while, o’there, Alan a’ye money on. Meow. Dude shall
in weld, remand shall on earth, an’ yon gulled Ian, god us each, uh,
both new. Endeth he new word. An’ a he new wicked dreck i’th’addle.

Exercise: Fragment work (2)

Pick a fragment where most has gone missing and fill in the gaps. You don’t need to sound like Sappho here. Instead, sound how the few remaining words feel to you. For example, given

]anxiety
]ground
]
]

one might get to

And anxiety.
How the ground.
Rises to meet.
A body.

Drawing a blank I stole another move from Carson. Her “Life of Towns.”

Exercise: Fragment work (1)

Imagine you are time. Pick a fragment from Carson’s Sappho that looks whole and erase most of it. Use brackets and the space of the page, à la Carson, to indicate where things have gone missing. Aim for a fragment just as resonant after your treatment as it was before. For example

and gold chickpeas were growing on the banks

might become

gold [                                      ] wing

Blake and the vision thing

Norman’s talk this morning has me thinking about Blake and vision and metaphor. The myth he made, I want to say from scratch, but in fact through some sly composting, offers to our minds four, I want to say worlds, but really, visions. Four ways of seeing that express themselves as worlds.

Blake felt sure one lives in such a world as one makes in mind. Thus the “mind-forged manacles” of “London.” His letter to Thomas Butts (previous post) lays the four out one way. In the prophetic poems he sets them before us as Eden, Beulah, Generation, and Ulro.

I asked this morning if “birds are forms of attention” is a metaphor or literal. Maybe the answer might depend on what realm one’s in that moment.

In Eden, the sentence is an insult to birds and attention. Not untrue but vulgar to say. In Beulah it’s a literal truth. In Generation it’s a metaphor. In Ulro, hell, it’s a lie. Them’s my thinks of an evening.