"Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that...reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph. Now find a poem in a language you don’t know.... Ignore any accompanying English translation.... Now start translating the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually “about” your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph. It will be a bit of a balancing act, but hopefully it will lead to new and beautiful (and possibly very weird) places."
There's a word for the process of "translating" a poem from a language you don't know into English, but that word escapes me at the moment. All I know is I've tried that exercise a few times, and never felt I was really successful. But I tried it again today, and I'll let you, gentle reader, be the judge. My source poem was selected rather randomly (Heinrich Heine's "Saphire sind die Augen dein"), though I went with German because I actually know a few words and thought that might help my process. (It really didn't). Anyway, here is the poem, and the photo I used, more or less, as the other inspiration.
Blue is the Eye Then
(after Heinrich Heine)
Blue is the eye then,
the lover so sudden.
Oh drama! Clueless is the man
to see with such large love.
Then hurt is a diamond
whose edge etches the surface.
Oh, drama! Clueless is the man,
for then is love truly glueless.
Reddened are the lips then,
but the man cannot share in the scene.
Oh, drama! Clueless is the man
who sees the love staying.
Oh, I can't be such a clueless man,
Oh, I am not so near fantasy.
What is so right in the green wood
will soon be bare in the end.
And since I really didn't incorporate the Poetic Asides prompt into that one, I wrote another poem, also inspired by a photo:
The One Tree
(after a photo by Colin Jennings)
all your wisdom shines
backlit through your leaves
as you stand proudly near the horizon
amongst miles of corn rows
fence posts and dirt roads
all diminishing toward you
you have grown here to impress
and nothing for miles around
has reached your heights
yet there is little you have done
except stand alone in a field
waiting for the lightning to strike
but isolation is like dry rot
and unless you have shared your shade
or your hanging fruit of knowledge
for the betterment of the world
they may not remember you long
after they plow your stump under