Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shakespeare Sonnet 18 Google Translated

Following a roundtrip Google Translation of the Fresh Prince, I decided to give a certain famous Shakespeare sonnet the same treatment. The results, I am happy to say, sound almost nothing like the original.

The following is "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day" translated from English into Finnish, Yoruba, Arabic, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Latin, Greek, Korean, and then back to English.

Compare Rates Summer
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
May the wind to shake the bud of love
And the temperature is less than the first one.
Heat in the southern sky;
Pale skin, golden,
And the fair and equitable
Perhaps the essence of the song changes
Eternal Summer, do not fade,
Announced on ow'st O
Are you proud of your field is killed by Wand'rest
The edge of the immortal five Xiangrong. 
One person can breathe or eyes can see, as though 
Maybe you offer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

"Mississippi by Mark Twain" as Situationist Dérive

The sculpture poem "Mississippi by Mark Twain" by Mark Staniforth explores new territory in what is still a fledgling genre.  Whereas it recalls Lewis Carroll's "The Mouse's Tale" and Apollinaire's "Calligrammes" in its literal composition, its heart lies with the Situationists and their notions of drift (dérive) and rerouting (détournement).

The original text is still detectable as an eroded background. It tells of the narrator and his friends' boyhood ambitions while living in a village on the West bank of the Mississippi river. Their enduring ambition was to grow up to become steamboatmen:

"When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman."

In Staniforth's version, the original narrator and his boyhood ambitions are not mentioned. Instead, primacy is given to the circus clowns and their hopes. Yet in the original, they are but an aside:

"We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient. When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first negro minstrel show that came to our section left us all suffering to try that kind of life; now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained." (my italics)

What we are given in Staniforth's version therefore is a hidden possibility of the text, a kind of alternative reality. We may think of it as a dérive through the text, tracing a branch of its psychogeography.

This drift also hints that things do not necessarily proceed in the same order as before: "of" follows "wavelets" as the Mississippi meanders backwards before slinking forward once more, whereas in the original it is the other way around.

"Mississippi by Mark Twain" demonstrates the versatility of existing text as raw material, and the unique potential of poetry to engage with the many mysteries of meaning.