(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.