Category: Poetry

Translating Rimbaud (An Excerpt from ‘A Season in Hell)

The following passage is my favourite from A Season in Hell:

Quant au bonheur établi, domestique ou non… non, je ne peux pas. Je suis trop dissipé, trop faible. La vie fleurit par le travail, vieille vérité : moi, ma vie n’est pas assez pesante, elle s’envole et flotte loin au-dessus de l’action, ce cher point du monde.


I immediately knew I wanted to use it as an epigraph for my current script. But I didn’t want to use somebody else’s translation. But I also don’t speak/read French. So, using the help of a literal translation thanks to Google, some other translations as guidelines, and the wisdom of some French-speakers on Facebook, I managed to come up with something of my own (a transcreation or bastardisation is probably the best way to describe it):

As for established happiness, domestic or otherwise… no, I cannot. I am too wasted, too weak. Life blossoms through labour, an old truth. Me, my life is weightless, it flies and floats far above action, that dear point of the world.

Not perfect. No translation ever is. But I think it captures the very things I liked about the passage when I first read it, as well as staying true to Rimbaud and myself.

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Multitudes

A favourite passage from Leaves of Grass:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then….I contradict myself;
I am large….I contain multitudes.

Excerpts from Three Poems About a Father’s Hands

“These hands are my father’s hands but smaller”
—Why?, “These Hands”

“My father gave me these hands, fingers
inch-wide and muscular like his”
—Richard Blanco, “My Father, My Hands”

“These hands are my father’s hands these eyes
Excessively veined his eyes”
—Charles Wright, “Congenital”

 

Highlighted Sections II

(The following is a ‘found poem’ using the highlighted bits from a secondhand copy of Howard Barker’s Arguments for a Theatre.)

Literally and metaphorically
There is now no darkness
In the world.

The open society is
White and bright. It
Abhors the shadows. It
Violates the penumbra of privacy
In the name of access. It
Trespasses in the most secret chambers
Of grief and makes advertisements
Of pain.

Absolute light. Light
As a system. Light
As a regime.

The urge to participate in
‘light-throwing’ is something
To which few artists are immune, Indeed
It is a time-honoured instinct
Among dramatists with a pedigree
Reaching far beyond the great
Illuminators, Brecht and Shaw.

Let us talk to tragedy, for
It is the greatest of all art forms
And the most beautiful, And
For these reasons alone almost abolished
By the Illumination System, hating beauty
As it must and afraid of the dark
As an aged bachelor shudders at
The shadow on his door.

Populist democracy can tolerate
Very little of the active self, For
Self is no respecter of rights, and
Tragedy is the supreme moment of self
And the worst enemy of rights, it
Tramples rights, it is
After all is said and done, the
Illegal for of things.

Tragedy is not humanist
And intends no good to man.

Highlighted Sections I

(The following is a ‘found poem’ using the highlighted bits from a secondhand copy of Howard Barker’s Arguments for a Theatre.)

We are living
The extinction
Of official socialism.
When the opposition loses
Its politics, it must
Root in art.

In a bad time
Laughter is a rattle
Of fear.

Ideology is the outcome
Of pain.

When a child fell under a bus
They called it tragedy.
On the contrary, It
Was an accident.
We have had a drama of accidents 
Masquerading as tragedy.

It is never too late to
Forestall the death of Europe.

 

The Penis Elegies: The Seventh Elegy

I know not what I am now.
I know not what I could be.
I know not what I should be.

All I know is the lack of decency according to the common man’s principles. 
All I know is the decadence of my overpowering urges that take hold and strangle me.
All I know is the smell of musk that wafts from your pits, your sack, your every pore.
All  I know is the desperate need to hide in the shadows to pursue the forbidden fruit that is my sex, that is your flesh, that I have been told no, no, no for so long.
All I know is the games I play that exist to give birth to a confidence no real person can carry.

I know nothing of love songs
Just lust songs
My swan songs to the world.

The Penis Elegies: The Sixth Elegy

Rest it upon my shoulder for my conscience is missing
Let it crawl from the depths of hell to the roof of my mouth
Breathe it down into my lungs so I may know new life
So this wellspring of carnal knowledge may be imbibed 
For unsentimental education is the most important thing
Not false prophets or paltry illusions we give these bedroom pedestrians.

The cock is a symbol of liberating iconography
It is the flag which I will wave proudly
With framed posters hanging from my bedroom walls.

The cock touches my tainted soul
It transcends simple sins
Lingering like the fondest of mischievous memories.

The cock is a wonder 
Full of suck ever-extending bliss
Something truly glorious to behold.

Our bodies will be a battlefield
The only death being La Petit mort. 

The Penis Elegies: The Fifth Elegy

I took you in my hand – you, your penis. 
Swallowed whole this turgid organ filled with stoic exuberance
Filled with vigorous, pumping ecstasy.

I took you in my hand – you, your penis. 
Thought how honest it was
Free from mankind’s distorted nature.

I took you in my hand – your, your penis. 
Softness turned hardness turned softness again
Fickle like my heart’s desires.

I took you in my hand not knowing
How much hurt you would cause when you let go
When you left me an empty shell
A flaccid yolk splattered like a blood stain
Melted like warm flesh across the pavement.

The Penis Elegies: The Fourth Elegy

They sought me out, the tarnished one
The one who fucked freely
The one who enjoyed the taste of life’s sweet nectar (cum)
The one who shamelessly spread his legs for accommodating strangers.

I am hung from the rooftops 
I am fed to the dogs
I am burnt at the stake
But I am no killer, no vermin, no witch.
Not a charmer or madonna
Not a player or whore
I am just a man with longings and yearnings
With lusts and deep desires.

You should never fall for a cock
Only beautiful, baby blue eyes.

You should never fall for a cock
Only chiseled jaws carved from marble.

You should never fall for a cock 
Only voices, deep and cavernous.

Didn’t you know?
To put a gun in another man’s mouth and pull the trigger in the name 
Of war is bravery.
To put a cock in another man’s mouth and shoot your load in the name
Of love is deviancy.

A man should never love a cock
But I love cock and I love you.

The Penis Elegies: The Third Elegy

This dripping tends to leave me with a tendency
Filled with hopeful histrionics that make sense of nothing.

A pearl-white necklace worth little more than spit or piss
Covers my face with a glaze of broken desire.

Disappointment washes over me more than I can bear
When you fuck me like you care.
Like I’m some sort of virgin school girl.
Like I’m some sort of innocent lamb.
Like I’m some sort of Disney princess.

I need you more when you disgrace me
With affection that resembles a heart
Shaped like a loaded pistol.