P O T E P O E T T E X T O N E -- from Potes & Poets Press, Inc. e-mail: potepoet@home.com

ROSES / BLUE -- poem and introduction -- by Douglas Barbour

'Writing' "Roses / Blue" a little note on constructing the poem as a Structural Homolinguistic Translation from E.D. Blodgett On one level, the following piece is a very simple bit of work. It is a form of what is called 'structural translation' in the field of 'homolinguistic translation.' Homolinguistic translation existed long before it was named as such, but it is a neat term. It has been practiced by many writers, but the two practitioners who had the most influence on me were bpNichol and Steve McCaffery. In homolinguistic translation the two codes of different languages across which a translation occurs become a single one: "hence 'homolinguistic' translation, translation from English into English. As for the modes of transfer, they are many and various: some are closed, formal systems, which allow very little leeway to the translator, and some are wide-open, free-association processes which allow the translator unlimited freedom" (Pirates, 141). The main point is that there is always a pre-text: the poem one writes is based in some way or other on an already written piece, sometimes another poem, sometimes something else, but always a text. A fine example of the form would be Rosemary Waldrop's Shorter American Memory, and there are many by Nichol and McCaffery, mostly published in Canada (although Nichol's Translating Translating Apollinaire: A Preliminary Report, appeared in the U.S.). Stephen Scobie and I listed three particular systems which we used in The Pirates of Pen's Chance: 1) 'metonymic translation,' in which all the words of the original text are replaced by words or phrases we associate with them, sometimes one word for a phrase, sometimes a phrase for a single word, etc. ; 2) 'acrostic translation,' either one in which the first letter of every word spells out the original text, or one in which the first word of every line spells out the original text; and 3) 'structural translation,' in which all he words we use are drawn from the original texts, but chosen by arbitrary or chance-generated methods. The arbitrary can be as easy as simply choosing a page of text and taking the first word of every line of prose as one's text, or it can depend upon much more complex ways of 'finding' the words out of which the poem will be built; but either way, what's left open to the writer/translator, at least in our process, are the line and stanza breaks, in which the writer's 'signature' can be 'felt.' In the case of "Roses / Blue," this piece was generated by the work I was doing on an article about the poetry of E.D. Blodgett, a Canadian poet whose work stands somewhat outside the mainstream of contemporary poetry. Blodgett is a multi-lingual professor of Comparative Literature with a deep interest in medieval poetry, and strongly influenced by some of the major European poets of the past few centuries, including Rilke. His recent work is a series of poems in which a profoundly lyric repetition undermines certain conventional lyric responses. The first part of this ongoing project, Apostrophes: woman at a piano won the Governor General's Award for poetry in 1996. I was asked to write on all Blodgett's work for a journal which specializes in translating English Canadian poetry into French and French Canadian poetry into English, and he gave me a selection of new poems to read as well. As I read and re-read the material, I was drawn further and further in to the movement of language in the recent work, and finally found the desire to play a kind of variation on it. I eventually chose to do a structural translation of the new poems, reading them backward in the arbitrary order in which he sent them to me, and choosing the last and first word of every line in the order they appeared. I also chose to make a stanza from each poem, so that was arbitrary too. But then, once those decisions were made, once the words were there before me in that order, it was up to me to create the rhythm of the piece through line breaks, indentations, etc.: that's where it becomes 'my' poem, so to speak. The piece still has a lot of the lyric qualities of the originals, I think, but where Blodgett's work seeks to go deeper and deeper into a meditative mode, based on lots of repetition and long musical lines, I was seeking a chopped, fragmented lyricism (I hope). What is exciting about doing this sort of thing is what happens when a phrase emerges from the fragmentation that actually makes a kind of lovely sense, but you know you didn't create it. The process did, in a kind of collaborative act that argues strongly against the primacy of the lyric ego as 'creator.' I think it is the way it helps a writer evade the siren call of lyric egotism that makes homolinguistic translation so attractive to some writers. Certainly, it has proven important to me, and partly for that reason. Works Cited Barbour, Douglas, & Stephen Scobie. The Pirates of Pen's Chance. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1981. Blodgett, E.D. Apostrophes: woman at a piano. Ottawa: Buschek Books, 1996. McCaffery, Steve. Intimate Distortions. Erin, Ont.: The Porcupine's Quill, 1979. Nichol, bp. Translating Translating Apollinaire: A Preliminary Report. Milwaukee: Membrane, 1979. Waldrop, Marjorie. Shorter American Memory. Providence, R.I.: Paradigm Press, 1988. Douglas Barbour University of Alberta
Roses / Blue (an arbitrary choosing from ED Blodgett) flesh hypothesis all every walk upon I you when children skin upon hands we rose to air have may about all than more the into the of their fall might skies but be be cannot through drift they perhaps air bright I us the of that choreography us between other as their of beginnings no that words that see and saw the air their of and spoke but and (were nymphs stories of their measuring the with the across it (bride all past coming ground almost rose invisible rise upon rain gaze eyes through falls stars those no have are why against unseen to about the on of symmetry but themselves that in all rain would they surrender a their within we see us give ourselves offering complete contain for longing growing stone their from been have beyond we and mind image one the of we as the of a air the on a within we day remembered rain surprise the but rain could I and mortality into rise the be and solitude receding suns was he the when upon stood the saw my Mouth beside radiate the speak it sky flesh become I rose reply continuous might anyone burning above surrounds that is breath enfold to its of inchoate still I hands there horizons what became of unsure of endlessness to enough because we transfigured skies with memories came deaths our beside the see upon hand dimly ritual when memory that stones can we a anywhere his within possession our the near our of an us of fires the what your upon as sight alphabets becoming think now becoming yours a more the within knowing earth nor you our upon their and you perhaps so lies within frail to remains eternity one beneath bones this down and grass to need purple fall have you white falling and rain the mouth fountains sky desire and of anemones the on the in the against the if the immersed what say I flesh sometimes and remember not serenities luxuriant fish flesh and opulent I [reverse reading of poems & lines, from a group of unpublished poems by E.D.Blodgett -- last & first words of every line, in order found]

Douglas Barbour's 'Writing' "Roses / Blue" is POTEPOETTEXTONE. Thomas Taylor's She Called Waterfall is POTEPOETTEXTTWO. Both are currently available. POTEPOETTEXTTHREE will be an essay by Nick Piombino on the work of Arakawa/Gins. Submissions to POTEPOETTEXT are currently being considered. Submit texts - minimum pages to: potepoet@home.com with subject line of: TEXT submission. A reply will be forthcoming as soon as possible. Most anything can serve as a POTEPOETTEXT the overriding consideration of the editor will be a tone of seriousness of discourse. Subscriptions to POTEPOTETEXT and its sister publication, POTEPOETZINE, are available by sending your e-mail address to: potepoet@home.com From May 30th to June 9th, the address to use will be: pganick@ibl.bm Peter Ganick is the editor of POTEPOETTEXT and POTEPOETZINE, electronic publications of Potes & Poets Press, Inc. Look for our publications in the Electronic Poetry Center's web-site.