Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Francophilia and Guardian's 100 Most Beautiful Words List

Guardian's list of 100 beautiful words (below) has been kicked about on facebook lately. Most of the words on this list are of French or Latin origin. Fewer than 10% are of Germanic origins. Strange, telling - a thousand years since the Battle of Hastings and English speakers still associate all things bright and beautiful (a French word) with French. Me, I like my English gritty and Germanic.

Ailurophile Assemblage Becoming Beleaguer Brood Bucolic Bungalow Chatoyant Comely Conflate Cynosure Dalliance Demesne Demure Denouement Desuetude Desultory Diaphanous Dissemble Dulcet Ebullience Effervescent Efflorescence Elision Elixir Eloquence Embrocation Emollient Ephemeral Epiphany Erstwhile Ethereal Evanescent Evocative Fetching Felicity Forbearance Fugacious Furtive Gambol Glamour Gossamer Halcyon Harbinger Imbrication Imbroglio Imbue Incipient Ineffable Ingénue Inglenook Insouciance Inure Labyrinthine Lagniappe Lagoon Languor Lassitude Leisure Lilt Lissome Lithe Love Mellifluous Moiety Mondegreen Murmurous Nemesis Offing Onomatopoeia Opulent Palimpsest Panacea Panoply Pastiche Penumbra Petrichor Plethora Propinquity Pyrrhic Quintessential Ratatouille Ravel Redolent Riparian Ripple Scintilla Sempiternal Seraglio Serendipity Summery Sumptuous Surreptitious Susquehanna Susurrous Talisman Tintinnabulation Umbrella Untoward Vestigial Wafture Wherewithal Woebegone

Today's Listening: Riverside - Agnes Obel

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Preface to After Babel

I've been reading After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation by George Steiner. The book puts forth the idea that translation infuses language with newness and strangeness. At Thanksgiving, my family went around the table and said what they are thankful for. I'll say what I'm thankful for in literature/writing/translation here: new and old friends - A.A., K.M., W.B., B.J.B., P.B., and more - who correspond with me about translation, reading, and examined life, helping me keep my poetry new and strange: a rain of stars indeed!

Today's Reading: Dover Beach - Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy and Merry

Today is Thanksgiving - happy Thanksgiving! And a month from now, it will be a (hopefully) merry Christmas. It strikes me that merry and happy are not interchangeable between holidays. It would sound odd to most to be wished a happy Christmas or a merry Thanksgiving. Why? The two words are more or less synonymous. It's my guess that the word pairings are based on euphony but there is some etymological appropriateness to the terms also.

Americans grow up with a historical romance surrounding Thanksgiving: the pilgrims fled cruel religious oppression in England, endured hardships and starvation in the new world, and were rescued by the kindness of neighboring natives. Elementary school students hear this story, which is the truth told in a simplified glossy way, while making hand turkeys and writing lists of what they are thankful for. The Thanksgiving narrative squares with the meaning of happy - chancy, lucky, felicitous, fortunate - and so is appropriate to this holiday celebrating historical fortune and present luck.

Merry, despite unsubstantiated claims that it once meant mighty (see Robin Hood's Merry Men and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen), means pleasant or pleasure producing. This is straightforwards enough, no need to belabor the word, though I like the idea of having a mighty Christmas. And to make you merry and happy on this Thanksgiving morning, I give you this Thanksgiving turducken:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Soramimi - Bollywood Homophony

I was explaining my recent homophonic translation projects to a friend this weekend. "Oh, like Benny Lava?" he asked and introduced me to youtube video of a Indian pop song with homophonic captions. Apparently this is a thing; there's even a Japanese term for this: soramimi, the homophonic translation of songs. Here is an excellent, though crass, example of the genre:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Strange Fortune

Two fortunes from Happy Wok from last night - what strange fate does my future hold?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

300 Poetry Submissions

Georgetown Review  Amherst Review Hunger Mountain Parnassus Literary Passages North Burnside Review Agni Magazine American Poetry Journal The Baltimore Review Barnwood Diner Hiram Poetry Shenandoah Puerto del Sol Parting Gifts Gulf Stream Gulf Coast Buttermilk Art Works Slow Trains Soul Fountain Dyer Ives Pearl Magazine No Exit Bear Creek Haiku Aardvark Adventurer Off the Coast Epicenter Kit-Cat CrazyHorse Third Eye Magazine Maelan Magazine Ibetson Street Press Clarion Review Five Finger Review Blacklisted Magazine High Altitude Press Boxcar Poetry Review Convergence Journal Westward Quartely Crazy Child Scribbler The Stickman Review Mary Journal Antimuse Freefall Redivider Over the Transom Prose Ax Willard and Maple Waterways Magpies Nest Sunken Lines Buenos Aires Review Cellar Door Dyer Ives Texas Poetry Journal Sun Poetic Times Burnside Review Paris Review Extistere Journal Pearl Magazine Massachesets Review Istanbul Literary Review Greatcoat Darkhorse CrazyHorse Gettysburg Review Southern Review Cimmaron Review Third Coast Absynthe Muse Riddle Fence New Madrid Rattle AGNI Tin House Ashville Poetry Review New Orleans Review Arabesques Review Burnside Review Extistere Journal Poetry of the Sacred The Drunken Boat Columbia Tiferet Journal Baltimore Review Blue Earth Review Quarterly West The Literary Review Jubilatt Copper Nickel Blue Mesa A Public Space Witness Chattahoochee Review Cincinnati Review Green Mountains Review West Branch Minnetonka Review Fifth Wednesday Review New Formalist Festival Potomac Review New Madrid Two Review Slice Tipton Poetry Review Blood Orange Review Bateau Sketch Euphony Crannog Linebreak Saltgrass Edinburgh Review Redivider Concave Los Angeles Review Mid American Review Poetry East Black Warrior Beloit Ashville Poetry Review Hayden's Ferry RHINO Texas Poetry Review Yale Hunger Mountain Crab Orchard Bayou Ploughshares Cimmaron Review Nimrod The New Formalist West Branch Columbia Quarterly West Ninth Letter New Madrid Third Coast Hollins Critic Virginia Quarterly Review 34th Parallel Light Quarterly Bellingam Review Evansville Review New Ohio Review Smartish Pace Massachesets Review Arkansas Review Pleiades Southern Review Potomac Review Rattle Iron Horse Georgetown Review  Classical Outlook Zoland Fugue Cream City Tiferet Journal Tar River Red Wheel Barrow Classical Outlook Belvue Rattle Hunger Mountain Bayou Cimmaron Review Nimrod Baltimore Review Bateau Florida Review Black Warrior Hayden's Ferry Caketrain Third Coast Bat City Arsenic Lobster Tuesday: An Art Project BOMB RHINO River Styx Blue Mesa Alaska Quarterly Ploughshares Harper Palate Blue Earth Review Fifth Wednesday Review Raintown Review New Madrid Slice Hawaii Pacific Review Cutbank Gulf Coast The Journal Ninth Letter Puerto del Sol Mid American Review Jubilatt West Branch New Ohio Review Green Mountains Review Alimentum Barrow Street Salamander 34th Parallel Appalachee Review Artful Dodge Fifth Wednesday Review The Journal Sakura Review Other Poetry (UK) Extistere Journal Lousiville Review New Plains The Believer Arroyo AGNI West Branch Shenandoah Pleiades Rattle DIAGRAM Crab Creek Review Cold Mountain Fence Indiana Review Third Wednesday Upstreet Silk Road Quarter After Eight Emerson Review Minnetonka Review Big Muddy Crate  Arts and Letters Plainspoke Copper Nickel Copper Nickel Jubilatt Poetry Magazines Indiana Review Notre Dame Review Salamander Prism Review Quiddity Redivider Paris Review Green Mountains Review Beloit Poetry Journal Mid American Review The Common CrazyHorse Agni Harvard Review The Drunken Boat Blue Earth Review Blood Orange Review Blue Mesa Sugarhouse Review Caketrain RHINO Euphony Bateau Smartish Pace Missouri Review New Orleans Review A Public Space Rattle Oxford American Poet Lore Pleiades Arkansas Review Memoir (and) Narrative Magazine  Southern Humanities Review Bat City Hunger Mountain Post Road Boston Review Michigan Quarterly Review Fugue Gettysburg Review Poetry Magazine  wordwithoutborders AGNI Colorado Review Copper Nickel Gulf Coast West Branch Green Mountains Review Harpur Palate Cutbank Hayden's Ferry Beloit Poetry Journal Arts and Letters: Prime 2 Lines Crannog 3rd Coast William and Mary  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Today's Reading: The Language Issue - Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (trans. Paul Muldoon)

I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant

in a basket of intertwined iris leaves,
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,

then set the whole thing down amidst
the sedge
and bulrushes by the edge
of a river

only to have it borne hither and thither
not knowing where it might end up;
the lap, perhaps
of some Pharaoh's daughter.

Cuirim mo dhochas ar snamh
i mbaidin teangan
faoi mar a leagta naionan
i geliabhan
a bheadh fite fuaite
de dhuilleoga feileastraim
is bitiuman agus pic
bheith cuimilte lena thoin.

ansan e a leagadh sios
i measc na ngioicach
is coigeal na mban si
le taobh na habhann,
feachaint n'fheadarais
a dtabharfaidh an sruth e,
feachaint, dala Mhaoise,
an bhfoirfidh inion Phorain?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Google Mistranslations

Google Translate doesn't know Faroese and autotranslates any Faroese website as if it were Icelandic. Here are a few lines automistranslated back into English from Faroese versions of my poems that recently appeared in Oyggjatíðindi:
  • the hood path / is as good as any other
  • Think about peace / beyond the wall circuits
  • Toe soap is rinsed out, come / remember the young tarvafiktarar
  • The standing army is gravsteininum
  • his son, Kleitagoros that kills the Odin, / packs, and now comes home 
  • virginity to a stripper pole, high, I danced some draft / in one night clubs on Canal Street
  • You've been here before, laser hair
  • Hades is a beach

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today's Reading: In the Provinces IV - Durs Grünbein



A cruciform frog
Lay flattened against the hot macadam
Of the country lane. Mouth gaping

It curled heavenwards, dried out by the sun,
The sole of a shoe, as first appeared –
An amphibious holdout from an older era
Now caught under the wheels.

No resurrection, save in the form of the larvae
Of the flies that will hatch from it tomorrow.

The dream leaks out of which orifice?



Wie der Gekreuzigte lag dieser Frosch
Plattgewalzt auf dem heißen Asphalt
Der Landstraße. Offenen Mauls

Bog sich zum Himmel, von Sonne gedörrt,
Was von fern einer Schuhsohle glich –
Ein Amphibium aus älterer Erdzeit,
Unter die Räder gekommen im Sprung.

Keine Auferstehung als in den Larven
Der Fliegen, die morgen schlüpfen werden.

Durch welche Öffnung entweicht der Traum?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Homeric Travel Tips - Stock Phrases on Xenia in the Odyssey

A question to ask on arriving at your destination: What are they here–violent, savage, lawless? / or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men? 

A question one should be prepared to answer when asking hospitality of a stranger: Where did you sail from, over the running sea-lanes? / Out on a trading spree? Or roving the waves like pirates, / sea-wolves raiding at will, who risk their lives / to plunder other men? 

A good reminder for guests and hosts alike: Respect the gods... / Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants: / strangers are sacred - Zeus will avenge their rights.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I went down to Whitmore Lake Tavern tonight with my friends Molly and George. Glancing down the menu, I noticed that the word salad was, ominously, in quotation marks. 

Though often used for emphasis rather than grammar in advertising, I can't help but read unnecessary quotation marks as that's what she said or if you know what I mean marks. I read "salads" and asked myself, "what are they really?" On closer reading, I saw that the word fresh was in italics. For emphasis or qualification? 

Molly ordered a "salad." When the waitress brought it to our table, I was put out of doubt as to what the quotations were for. It was definitely a "salad" not a salad: a mound of lettuce topped with an entire chicken breast sliced into strips, piles of cheese, and two halved hard boiled eggs. As for the fresh, Molly didn't say.

Today's Reading: Half an Hour - C.P. Cavafy

I never had you, nor I suppose
will I ever have you. A few words, an approach,
as in the bar the other day—nothing more.
It’s sad, I admit. But we who serve Art,
sometimes with the mind’s intensity,
can create—but of course only for a short time—
pleasure that seems almost physical.
That’s how in the bar the other day—
mercifully helped by alcohol—
I had half an hour that was totally erotic.
And I think you understood this
and stayed slightly longer on purpose.
That was very necessary. Because
with all the imagination, with all the magic alcohol,
I needed to see your lips as well,
needed your body near me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Viva la Vida

My students always request this song. One took this video at our school's halloween bonfire.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jeggings Season

It's that time of year again. Leaves are falling from the trees, somber skies are evoking angsty poetry, and girls everywhere are pulling their jeggings out of storage. These hybrid pants - a combination of jeans and leggings - became so popular last year that the word was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. My friend Sara introduced me to jeggings last fall, patiently explaining the concept of the garment. Tacky, guileful, an excuse to wear leggings in public and seem less teenagey, perhaps - but the fact that jeggings exist bring a smile to my face, if only because I like the way the word rolls front to back to front in the mouth.

A Gentleman's Haircut

Today, I took a walk. It's beautiful today - sunny, almost warm. Swans are paddling and diving along the shore of Whitmore Lake. There's not much of a downtown here, maybe two dozen shops, most of them closed on the weekend but there are three barber shops. I went to Ted's Barber Shop and read Popular Mechanics while I waited. When it came time to cut my hair, the owner (Ted I assume) asked if I was there for a gentleman's haircut. I didn't know what that meant but how can one say no to that question? Here's what I ended up with. Perhaps it would help if I owned a comb.

Sigh No More