Friday, July 22, 2011

Homophonic Translation

(abridged, p. 126-128)
by Charles Bernstein

Take a poem, or part of a poem, in a foreign language and translate it word for word according to what it sounds like in English. Try this with a language you know and then with one you don't know. Don't use a dictionary, just rely on what your ears hear and go from there.

Homophonic means "same sound": try to stick as close as possible to what each word sounds like in the original when thinking of an equivalent-sounding word in English. Use slang and other nonstandard English words. Let the syntax take care of itself.

This exercise works differently for languages that share many cognates with English--such as French, Spanish, and Italian--than it does for languages that do not have much in common with English. Experimenting with Oriental, Slavic, or Native American languages is likely to produce a wilder range of possibilities.

Pamela Alexander comments: While the results may or may not be useful as they stand, they may provide happy accidents, associational gems, or a tonal structure you can use to envision a poem of your own. It encourages strangeness that arises from the experience of being lost in the foreign land of the incomprehensible page, that land where meaning has to be invented.

1 comment:

fojee said...

Everness
Jorge Luis Borges

Sólo una cosa no hay. Es el olvido.
Dios, que salva el metal, salva la escoria
Y cifra en Su profética memoria
Las lunas que serán y las que han sido.

Ya todo está. Los miles de reflejos
Que entre los dos crepúsculos del día
Tu rostro fue dejando en los espejos
Y los que irá dejando todavía.

Y todo es una parte del diverso
Cristal de esa memoria, el universo;
No tienen fin sus arduos corredores

Y las puertas se cierran a tu paso;
Sólo del otro lado del ocaso
Verás los Arquetipos y Esplendores.

Everness: homophonic translation

So low in a cousin no hi. Is hello all we do?
Yes, keys salve me tall, salve a less score ya
Easy frown so prophetic me more ya
last loons keys ran I'll ask hands I do
Yet to do is tall owes me less direct flee hose
key entry lost does crepe pus killers dell do ya
to ross throw feud hand when loses pose
I'll ask ere add hand to dove ya
It too does an apart idyll diverse so
crystal these a me more ya, loony verse
not yen and fins hard was corridors
I'll ask poor task you're an at two pass
so low the lot roll add do the low case
very as lost ark Oedipus yes splendors