Gah, managed to get my four poems for today done before the end of work, thanks to a brief lull in things. This is for the NaPoWriMo post of doing a homophonic translation, which is to say, taking a poem in a foreign language and shifting it into English. This requires some clever use of orthography and/or some familiarity with the language’s phonology, plus a certain willingness to skim carelessly and just roll with the punches. My go-to language for such exercises is usually an Eastern European one (Hungarian and Serbian are favorites), but this time I went to Finnish, and the poem “Won’t You Close Your Eyes” by Olli Heikkonen. Here’s the original text:
Sulkisit jo silmäsi.
Heidän valonsa on muita valoja kirkkaampaa.
Se pakottaa silmiä ja korventaa niskaa.
Se tulee puiden takaa, ihmisten valo,
ja saa minut säntäämään
pensaisiin ja pitkään heinään
metsän hyiseen ytimeen.
Että millaista on pudota suohon
suorin jaloin, sorkat kuin lyijypunnukset.
Ihokarvat työntyvät turpeeseen,
rävähtää auki. Rävähtää auki
sillä mudan ja liejun syvyyksiin
on juurtunut pehmeä valo,
sinne on juurtunut
Which translates (according to Maria Lyytinen at this page) as:
Won’t you close your eyes.
Their light is brighter than other lights.
It aches in the eyes and scorches the neck.
It comes from beyond the trees, human light,
and makes me race
to the shrubs and tall grass
to the icy core of the forest.
And what it is like to sink into the swamp
with straight legs, hooves like lead weights.
Hairs push into the turf,
bursts open. Bursts open
for in the depths of mud and sludge
a soft light has taken root,
a simple light
has taken root.
But which I rendered — with my knowledge of Finnish phonology, ignorance of Finnish vocabulary, and a good deal of alphabet soup transmogrification — as some kind of frustrated love song to a bordello ex-baby-mama or something. Not at all in keeping with the rest of my stuff this month, but language and ignorance make strange bedfellows:
Serenading the Madam
Sulkily, I sit on your sill, massing
hate and valors on my values. Quick computations
see packets of similar conventions in the scar
you set me, putting talk into my stain. Value?
You say “minutes”, and tall men
penning sighs in a pinch can have no one
medicine. Who’s seen what I mean?
Add a million stars. Open dots of sun:
sun, or yellowing sores. Caught queen, looped and naked.
I, who carved out twins too vast to represent,
joke that I’m an awoken
raven, the owl key. Raven. The owl key.
Silly mother, you lie on your cervix in
one of your turned-out pay-me-off wallows.
Sins are on your tongue,
whose skin — certainly — is valued.