Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dockyard Prayer (Lost in translation) (Day 12)

Outside Media City
In the heart of Salford Quays
Everything is attached to the past
With neighbouring estates
Skeletal and smouldered in jealiously. 

Everything is chained to the past
With pictures of dock hands
Who worked til they dropped
Clashing with children dashing into
The designer shops like dock leaves. 

Boats with their flags always down
And bridges rattling off shots
In a soft tribute to the fallen
Is tried down with shadows. 

Ghosts which whisper to me
With welded caps
And flame laced boots
What are you doing,
What are you doing?, 

Cut into pieces by the wind
Slamming shut my answer
In a face-mask
And back-combed
Like a wrapped trophy
Which is lost in translation, 

But never far
From my thoughts. 

(Day 12 of asked for
'Our prompt for the day comes from a similar impulse to use the language already around us. Now, many of us took a second language for a year or two in high school, but for poetic purposes, you don’t actually need to know a second language to translate it. You just need to be able to pronounce it — sort of. This allows you to render a homophonic translation — a translation based on the way the words sound, without any care for what they actually mean in the original.
For example, I might take this line in Portuguese (from Ledo Ivo’s poem A Escavadeira):
Os homens já acordaram e voltaram a construer e a destruir.
and homophonically translate it as:
Omen of jacquard, a ram, a volt. A constant read is true.
You might say that the result doesn’t make much sense, but it’s at least given me whole bunch of new words and ideas to play with. I can leave that line as it is, or I could rearrange bits of it, or just take the parts I like the best and use them as the inspiration for a new poem.
So, for today, try finding a short poem in another language (one you don’t already know!) and translating it homophonically. The Poetry International website is a good place to look — they have poems from all over the world, in dozens of languages. Just cut and paste a poem into your text editor (ignoring the English translations that the site provides) and go to town!' Sadly because of work, I knew I wouldn't get time to look round tons of writing and research and scribble and research so instead I wrote about Salford Quays, where I work which was a old dockyard but now reborn as the home for the BBC and Granada TV Studios where I feel the original meaning of the place has been lost in translation'. 

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