Monday, January 30, 2012

More on the Psalms Contest

I've had a few people asking for details on what I'm looking for in submissions to the psalm translation contest. Loose, strict, metrical, or free, I'm looking for a personal version of any single biblical psalm. The piece can be transposed, translated, or transmogrified - anything that bring personal vision and poetic craft to bear on the material. I mentioned in the original post that submissions would be judged on accuracy. This doesn't mean a knowledge of Hebrew is necessary. Rather, I want fidelity to the spirit and beauty of the original, even if is transported into the context of a Berlin street or the back hills of Arkansas.

The contest idea came from reading about the Bay Psalm Book in "The Poetics of Translation" by Willis Barnstone. The section below, though incomplete, gives an overview of the Bay Psalm Book. Though I'm not (necessarily) looking for psalm translations that meet the strict requirements of puritan settlers, I want something as human, as vital, as personal, and as poetic.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Translation Contest - Psalms

Last summer, my friend Powell Burke suggested I start a literary magazine. I had never thought of it until then but was intrigued. I think I will someday but not yet (for one thing, thinking up a good journal name is difficult). But for a first step, I sponsored two contests - one for translation of Martial and one for homophonic translation of Horace. The submissions were excellent and the winners (read here and here), stellar. This is the kind of thing I would like to start a magazine of: poetry, translation, and essays. If you, dear reader, have a good idea for a journal name, let me know. So, onward: a new contest for the translation of the Psalms in time for Lent.

Rules: Pick any biblical Psalm and translate it into English (foreign language entries welcome with literal translation included). No knowledge of Hebrew is necessary. Entries will be judged (by panel) on originality, musicality, accuracy, and aesthetics. Send entries to MatthewDLandrum(at)gmail(dot)com.

Prize: $50 and a beat-up copy of George Steiner's "After Babel - Aspect of Language and Translation." Winners will be published on this blog.

Deadline: Ash Wednesday (February 22, 2012)

Sexist Dr. Pepper 10 Commercial - "It's Not For Women"

This advertising oddity states, "Dr. Pepper 10, it's not for women." Why the marketing team at Dr. Pepper/7-Up thought it a good idea to limit consumption of its product to half the population is beyond me.

I am interested in the phrase "only ten manly calories." Are calories in general manly or these specific ones? And if calories are manly, why only ten? The use of "our" in "our movie" and "our soda" is also interesting. I didn't know that men needed to reclaim soft drinks and cinema.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today's Reading: Interrogativa Cantilena

If all the world were paper,
And all the sea were ink;
If all the trees were bread and cheese,
How should we do for drink?

If all the world were sand'o,
Oh then what should we lack'o,
If as they say there were no clay,
How should we take tobacco?

If all our vessels ran'a,
If none but has a crack'a;
If Spanish apes ate all the grapes,
How should we do for sack'a?

If friars had no bald pates,
Nor nuns had no dark cloisters;
If all the seas were beans and pease,
How should we do for oysters?

If there had been no projects,
Nor none that did great wrongs;
If fiddlers shall turn players all,
How should we do for songs?

If all things were eternal,
And nothing their end bringing;
If this should be, then how should we
Here make an end of singing?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Today's Reading: from Greetings from Oblivion City - Durs Grünbein

The doctors have conducted tests, and, apparently,
What we call the present, the little interstice
Between what was and will be, measures six seconds. But not here.
Camels and dromedaries would sooner pass through the eye of a needle

Than someone look back with sorrow upon his yesterday.
"Chronos?" they mutter. "What's that? A hormone supplement?"
"One of those pills? A banned snuff movie? A cocktail?"
There's nothing about once and future in Arcadia.

And it seems like some peculiar perversion if someone recollects
A first kiss, innocence, the night, and then...
It's always in the present that the finders of happiness blink,
Comprehensively insured, because nothing can end that never began.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New words in English - over-accessorized

Every month, the Oxford English Dictionary adds new words to its online listings (the language is growing too fast to make print practical). In December, the official register grew by 736 new words. Some highlights include the calque noun earworm, the lovely adjective Aesopically, and the slangy noun va-jay-jay.

My favorite new word from the list is over-accessorized, adjective meaning "having too many accessories, flashy, clashing, or ostentatiously dressed."

A dictionary should be descriptive not prescriptive. I like the OED's unstodgy approach to language (I wonder if unstodgy is in the running for new words). A dictionary is a gauge of the times. And if these pictures are any indication, the postmodern homage and pastiche of contemporary couture which will have few things to offer posterity except jeggings.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Today's Reading: Fragment IV - Sappho

Some say an army of horsemen, others
say foot-soldiers, still others, a fleet,
is the fairest thing on the dark earth:
I say it is whatever one loves.

Everyone can understand this --
consider that Helen, far surpassing
the beauty of mortals, leaving behind
the best man of all,

sailed away to Troy. She had no
memory of her child or dear parents,
since she was led astray
[by Kypris] . . .

. . . lightly
. . . reminding me now of Anaktoria
being gone,

I would rather see her lovely step
and the radiant sparkle of her face
than all the war-chariots in Lydia
and soldiers battling in shining bronze.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Elfin vs. Elven

According to OED, elfin is the correct form of the adjective meaning "of elves", as oaken is "of oaks", and twiggen is of "twigs." However, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings popularized elven which is now standard in American English.

Driving home from Grand Rapids last weekend, I ended up behind a Keebler truck with the motto "... a little elfin magic goes a long way." stamped across its back. This unfortunate usage of elfin, though grammatically correct, is cognate with effin. Intentional? Perhaps. One wonders how else this slipped past the marketing department.

It's always pleasant to encounter linguistic oddities, especially on a grey winter day of an exhausting weekend. Ah, words... a little effin magic goes a long way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today's Reading: The Bandaged Shoulder - C.P. Cavafy

He said he’d hurt himself against a wall or had fallen down.
But there was probably some other reason
for the wounded, the bandaged shoulder.

Because of a rather abrupt gesture,
as he reached for a shelf to bring down
some photographs he wanted to look at,
the bandage came undone and a little blood ran.

I did it up again, taking my time
over the binding; he wasn’t in pain
and I liked looking at the blood.
It was a thing of my love, that blood.

When we left, I found, in front of his chair,
a bloody rag, part of the dressing,
a rag to be thrown straight into the garbage;
and I put it to my lips
and kept it there a long while—
the blood of love against my lips.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bennington College - Where I Lived and What I Lived For

bennington pond

i learned how to pronounce adirondack while at bennington

my classmates and i - waiting for our lectures

singing with class of 2011

view toward the end of the world

bennington in winter

poets vs. prose softball - poet team

ada's first snowmen

snow football - this must be what it's like to be a kennedy

snow football

green mountains
common lawn - summer

Today's Reading: Lonely Hearts - Wendy Cope

Can someone make my simple wish come true?
Male biker seeks female for touring fun.
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Gay vegetarian whose friends are few,
I'm into music, Shakespeare and the sun.
Can someone make my simple wish come true?

Executive in search of something new—
Perhaps bisexual woman, arty, young.
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Successful, straight and solvent? I am too—
Attractive Jewish lady with a son.
Can someone make my simple wish come true?

I'm Libran, inexperienced and blue—
Need slim, non-smoker, under twenty-one.
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Please write (with photo) to Box 152.
Who knows where it may lead once we've begun?
Can someone make my simple wish come true?
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Homophonic Telephone: Brief Update

The homophonic telephone project is five steps in right now. So far the translation has gone from English -> German-> Polish-> Faroese-> German. I won't spoil final product but here are a few memorable lines in translation:

       - Ulf likes the / sea so much.
       - I’m weighing poppy seeds / at the sheriff’s place.
       - I waterwash Kyðja, you, inside a gasoven.
       - Cotton is to wash cows.

I've been surprised at how well some of the sounds and structures have maintained themselves from translation to translation. More in the next few months.

Today's Listening: Poison - Maïa Vidal

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eurymachus on Auspice (Divination through the Flight of Birds)

"Go home and babble your omens to your children —
save them from some catastrophe coming soon. 
I'm a better hand than you at reading portents. 
Flocks of birds go fluttering under the sun’s rays, 
not all of them are fraught with meaning.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pucallpa, Peru - Where I Lived and What I Lived For

My Neighborhood
The Walk to Work

SAM Academy Library
Drama Productions with My Wonderful Students

Banana Truck in Mercado Bella Vista (Beautiful View Market)
Wild Dogs at Mercado Bella Vista
Monkey for Sale
Me Unwisely Trying a Medicine Man's Draft of 7 Roots

Cashibo Cocha
The Campos

Abby with Heatstroke

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Book a Week in 2011 - Highlights

But it isn’t all the same to us that night-time 
Runs out; that we must make do with today’s
Happenings, and stoop and somehow glue together
The silly little shards of our lives, so that
Our children can drink water from broken bowls,
Not from cupped hands. It isn’t the same at all.
    -Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill (Aubade)

Love is, at least in part, a response to energy.
    -P.D. James (Death Comes to Pemberly)

No other Odysseus will ever return to you.
That man and I are one, that man you see...
here after many hardships,
endless wanderings, after twenty years
I have come home to native ground at last."
    -Homer (Odyssey 16.232)

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”
      -Psalm 39

I am a child of Earth and the starry skies;
But my generation is of Heaven alone. This you know yourselves.
But I am parched with thirst and I perish. Give me quickly
the cold water flowing forth from the lake of Memory.
   -Anonymous Greek Funeral Tablet

The windows are dark in the town, child.
The whales huddle down in the deep.
I’ll read you one very last book if you swear
You’ll go the f*** to sleep.
    -Adam Mansbach (Go the F*** to Sleep)

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.
    -A.E. Housman (Diffugere Nives)

What's best, what serves us... leave it to the gods.
We're dearer to the gods than to ourselves.
Harassed by impulse and diseased desire,
we ask for wives, and children by those wives --
what wives and children heaven only knows.
Still if you will ask for something, pray for
a healthy body and a healthy soul,
a mind that is not terrified of death,
thinks length of days the least of nature's gifts --
courage that drives out anger and longing... our hero,
Hercules, and the pain of his great labor...
Success is worshipped as a god; it's we
who set her up in palace and cathedral.
I give you simply what you have already.
    -Robert Lowell (Juvenal's Satires)

Once bread becomes toast, it can never be bread again.
    -Anonymous (Sirkus Bathroom Wall)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Book a Week in 2011 - Stats and List

Books read: 52
Pages read: 9076
Average length: 174 pages
Shortest Book: 30 pages
Longest Book: 597 pages
Original languages: 10
Countries: 12

1. Anthem - Ayn Rand
2. Roman Elegies - Johann Wolfgang Goethe, trans. Peter Hutchinson
3. Late Wife - Claudia Emerson
4. Approximately Paradise - Don Schofield
5. Inventing Paradise - Edmund Keeley
6. Spar - Karen Volkman
7. The Greek Anthology - Ed. Peter Jay
8. The Aeneid - Publius Vergilius Maro, trans. Robert Fitzgerald
9. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez, trans. Edith Grossma
10. A History of Venice, Queen of the Sea - Thomas Madden
11. Maggot - Paul Muldoon
12. The Astrakhan Cloak - Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, trans. Paul Muldoon
13. A Shropshire Lad - A. E. Housman
14. Psalms - ESV
15. Poems - George Seferis, trans. Rex Warner
16. A Distant Mirror - Barbara Tuchman
17. Imperfect Birds – Ann Lamott
18. The New Covenant – trans. Willis Barnstone
19. Moy Sand and Gravel – Paul Muldoon
20. Unfinished Poems – Constantine Cavafy
21. Human Chain – Seamus Heaney
22. Sailing the Wine Dark Sea – Thomas Cahill
23. Old School – Tobias Woolf
24. Book of My Nights – Li-Young Lee
25. The Pharaoh’s Daughter - Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill
26. Greek Lyrics – trans. Richmond Lattimore
27. Ad Infinitum: a Biography of Latin - Nicholas Ostler
28. Selected Translations – Ted Hughes
29. Barbara - Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen, trans. George Johnson
30. Atlas of the Medieval World – Rosmond McKitterick
31. The Matchmaker of Kenmare – Frank Delaney
32. Eternal Enemies – Adam Zagajewski, trans. Claire Cavanaugh
33. Bossy Pants – Tina Fey
34. Passions and Ancient Days – Constantine Cavafy
35. Last Poems – A.E. Housman
36. Near the Ocean – Robert Lowell
37. News of the World – Phillip Levine
38. District and Circle – Seamus Heaney
39. More Poems – A.E. Housman
40. Poems of Deep Song – F. Garcia Lorca, trans. Christopher Mauer
41. Gilgamesh – trans. Herbert Mason
42. Lust – Simon Blackburn
43. Leave Me Hidden – Franz Wright
44. Go the F*** To Sleep - Adam Mansbach
45. Works and Days – Hesiod, trans. Apostolos N. Athanassakis
46. The Amber Necklace from Gdansk – Linda Nemec-Foster
47. Polytheogamy – Timothy Liu
48. Marginalia for Natural History – Keith Taylor
49. Gorse Fires – Michael Longley
50. Death Comes to Pemberly – P.D. James
51. Continuing Conclusions – Richmond Lattimore
52. The Odyssey – Homer, trans. Robert Fagles

Lines Written between Dublin and Keflavik

These words are not meant to be read in their entirety. Skim them the way this plane skims the cloud layer, jostling sometim...