Friday, June 6, 2008

*Homonymic Translation

This poem is my second attempt at a homonymic translation. The original work was a 13th Century Middle English poem called "The Cuckoo Song." I wrote this a few years ago and don't remember why I chose this particular poem as my jumping-off point, but I do remember that I was (at that time) reading a few books about the origins of English diction. So here's the "translation" that I wrote:

Summer is coming in,
The cuckoo sings loudly!
Grow strong and blow more
And spring the world anew.
Sing, cuckoo!

All bleed after the womb,
Lost after calling clues,
Bulling streets, barking underneath.
Merrily sing, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo,
The cuckoo sings well.
Day swallows the newest news.

I really love the first line of the second stanza, and I've been trying for years to come up with a way to use that line as the focus of a totally original poem; so far, I have failed. But I love the idea that we're born in blood that is not our own and then spend the rest of our lives bleeding ourselves. Juxtapose that with the image of a merry bird singing a happy spring song and it creates an eerie tone that I'm usually at a lost to find in my writing.

This is one of my favorite exercises to do when I'm suffering from writer's block. I will grab any ol' poem in a foreign language that I don't speak (which is all of them) and try to translate it based solely on sound. The result makes no sense at all, but then if you take that translation and attempt to use it to make something new, you can usually find inspiration for something you didn't know you had.

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