Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PAD Day 23: Never Trust a Poet with a Gun

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "location poem", and (2) write a "homophonic translation" poem.  The latter exercise is one I've done a few times and usually find quite daunting: you take a poem in a language you don't really speak or understand, then "translate" it into English based on the sound and/or look of the words rather than their actual meaning.  The first draft usually comes out as nonsense, but with revision you can get it to sound at least semi-rational.  In my quest for a "location" poem, I found "Bruxelles" (Brussels) by Paul Verlaine, the 19th century French poet. But I also started reading the "back story" of Verlaine's tumultuous relationship with his protégé and sometime-lover, Arthur Rimbaud, which came to a head in Brussels, when in an absinthe-soaked rage, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the hand, thus landing him in the slammer for a couple of years. This would make a great narrative poem, but that's for another day. Still, I think that reading all that inspired some of my word choices in this poem, which is in its third revision and may still have a way to go.

Here's the original French version:

Bruxelles: Simples Fresques

La fuite est verdâtre et rose
Des collines et des rampes,
Dans un demi-jour de lampes
Qui vient brouiller toute chose.

L’or sur les humbles abîmes,
Tout doucement s’ensanglante,
Des petits arbres sans cimes,
Où quelque oiseau faible chante.

Triste à peine tant s’effacent
Ces apparences d’automne.
Toutes mes langueurs rêvassent,
Que berce l’air monotone.

And here is my "translation":

Verlaine in Brussels (Simple Frescos)
The suite is verdant and rose
The columns and the ramps
Dance and damage all the lamps -
Quite violent brawlers we chose.
Lord, sir, the humble abide
To docile men, sense a glance.
The petty arbors sense crimes
You squelch your so-fabled chant.
Tryst, a penitent, self-effacement,
See appearances of autumn,
To my languorous revision,
Quiet burst, the air monotone.

No comments: