Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 359 - Hamlet & Chuck Norris

In the first act and scene of Hamlet, Marcellus relates the following to Horatio and Bernardo after the trio sees the ghost of Hamlet's father:

  Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes 
  Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, 
  This bird of dawning singeth all night long; 
  And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad, 
  The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, 
  No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, 
  So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

Dear reader, I hope your Christmas is a merry one and may the new year bring you new joys. It turns out that Shakespyeares last two calender cycles, convenient as I didn't make it through the complete works yet. More to come in 2014. Until then, be well. Raise a glass of rum punch for me. Here are Shakespeare's lines, Chuck Norris, and Enya to cheer your season.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 332 — Christmas sweater tights

Whether it should be viewed as a benefit or no, one of the side effects of reading is that one connects lines and snippets of literature to the stuff of everyday life. Last weekend, I was stuck at the mall for four hours — my car needed engine repair and my mechanic is located in the outskirts of the parking lot. So, marooned, I wandered, window-shopping and people watching. This latter activity brought to me the prevalence of something I had heard of but seen only a few times: Christmas sweater tights.

Teenager after teenager, college student after college student, I saw a dozen or perhaps a score of young women and girls wearing these substitutes for pants. Fascinating to think of the brief years between the widespread introduction of fashion tights and jeggings and these snowflake and Christmas tree patterned show-all garments!

Others interested in prescriptive fashion will and do (I am sure) have much to say about these bottom enhancing bottoms, as several of my friends have. But the first thing that ran through my head when I saw a gaggle of snowflake and Christmas tree sweater tight clad college coeds walking through the mall was a line from Shakespeare: oh brave new world, / that has such people in't.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Updates and Miscellany

Another fall has fallen on Whitmore Lake, strewing leaves on my lawn and darkening the skies before I leave work. In the thick of teaching and preparing issue 11 of Structo, I've neglected you, dear reader. So here's a round-up of the last few months:

  • Identity Theory published my poems "Salt for Katharina" and "Cicada." 
  • Modern Poetry in Translation published three of my translations of Jóanes Nielsen, his debut in English. Another of my translations of Nielsen is forthcoming in RHINO.
  • I'm happy to be publishing translations from Jèrriais, Irish, Scotch Gaelic, and medieval Korean in Structo 11.  
  • Verse Junkies published two translations of Agnar Artúvertin. From layout of the picture, it looks like I am that mustachioed poet. That is actually Agnar.
  • A singer at the local open-mic told me, "If you love the sea, that love will always be unrequited."
  • I've recorded another poetry reading for 88.1 WYCE, available here - zebras, the Berlin underground, and Faroese puns in translation.
  • I translated two stories for the Nordic House. My favorite line (from Sólrun Michelsen's The Rat): "tað er so hugaligt at hoyra onkran skavast inni í myrkrinum og at hava onkran at  siga góða nátt við." How nice indeed, reader!
There are many things that appear on to-do list after to-do list that keep getting pushed back — finishing an essay on the word the, learning Love Is Like Tobacco on guitar, writing to you. I will. I will.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our brief permanences

I inherited three things from my grandfather — a gun, a bust of Robert E. Lee, and a globe. The latter, faded and dusty, a large swath of the Pacific Ocean missing where the cardboard peeled away after years of sitting in a basement, shows a world that lasted less than a year. There's no date but the Mali Federation, a union of Senegal and Mali, existed for only three months in 1960. But here it is indelible like the Aden Protectorate, Dahomey, Australian Papa New Guinea, Spanish Sahara, the United Arab Republic. How like our literatures, these records of brief unions, of governments that split apart, of a world once cohesive but now a memory. But there is something to it, dear reader, to say we were here, this was and it left a mark.

Monday, September 16, 2013

a postcard

Tonight I walked down the frontage road to Shady Beach and sat and read a friend's poems. I looked up after reading and noticed what I hadn't before — the trees on the nes were starting to turn, tips all burnish and russet. The sun was under the trees but it was still light and a frail moon was ghosting at the horizon's edge. It was so beautiful that I thought of running home to fetch my camera so I could send a picture to you, my dearest reader. But we can't live like that, you and I, recreating presents, packaging memory. So I sat and watched the sky for a while and wished you were here.

Your last haircut

After years spent in the pursuit of self-improvement, let us be recalled to reality. It's not the loves and literatures we cultivate that define us, not those at all.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lenten Psalm Translation Contest - A Followup

The two years of the Lenten Psalm Translation Contest, held here on this blog, have garnered submissions of great beauty and variety. Winners and runners-up have taken their pieces on to Image Journal, The Missouri Review, A-Minor Magazine, and other publications. This year's winner, Jen Hinst-White, submitted her winning psalm sandwiched in an essay about miscarriage. Reading her submission, I experienced awe - in the original sense of the word. I was humbled to be complicit in the creation of something so weighty and beautiful; and I was moved to a great silence of understanding, remembering the days surrounding the loss of my own daughter.

Jen's full essay appeared recently, in two parts, on the Image Journal blog, Good Letters. You can read Hinst-White's full essay at Good Letters - part onepart two. And her psalm appears below.

To the Pilot Bridegroom

      after Psalm 25

At your hangar door I toss me: a paper plane.
Bring me in from the rain—take me ragged, and keep me
            all clear of the suck of the great turbines
Collect me and read me, wee stormied scrap,
            and scrap those still scrapping us windward,
            O God—
Don’t forget. Fold aright, and write New on my wing—
make limp paper sing—here, then, the wait—
but love’s side-lying
Eight guides all your flights. Right? Remind me. Remind me.
Find me kindly. Not back in my writhing, wriggling loose of my binding—
            forgive me, still wild—
God of the Polestar. Pilot Bridegroom. Pied Guider.
He gathers scorched ribbons for the tails of his kites.
If he finds paper squares, he folds cranes for his skies,
and so newsprint shares airspace with stars.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Postscript - Seamus Heaney

I woke this morning to a facebook feed full of homage to Irish poet Seamus Heaney who died this morning. My father and I saw him read at Aquinas College when I was twenty-two in a small, overcrowded theatre. I remember him saying that a poet was one of the only professions that still carries a spiritual, mystical weight. And he also said, to a child who asked how to be a poet, through hard work. 


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Vitam meam introivisti et me fecisti dubitatio. Sed cafeam facias – unum poculum, non duos, portes. Istam non dubitem.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 211 - Shakespeare and the Starlings

In the summers of 1890 and 1891, Eugene Schieffelin released 100 starlings in Central Park. This was part of his goal to introduce to America every bird mentioned in Shakespeare's canon. He imported and released nightingales, skylarks, bullfinches, and starlings. All of these failed to thrive and died out, all except the starlings which established themselves in New York City then spread out. Today, they span the continent with a population of 200 million, all descendents of the Shakespearean hundred. And all because of a little line in Henry IV:

I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
    Nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him
    To keep his anger still in motion.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Love and Theft - Housman and Heine

Reading Heine today, I came across the poem below. It's a clear point of departure for Housman's "Sinner's Rue." This unacknowledged translation is not a translation only but an expansion. It is a great example of my thesis that all is fair in love, war, and literature. If the end result is good poetry, who cares what skullduggery and nefariousness occurred in bringing it to being.


They buried him at the cross-roads,               Am Kreuzweg wird begraben
Whose own hand wrought his doom ;            Wer selber sich brachte um;
And over him grow blue flowers                    Dort wächst eine blaue Blume,
Called the " Poor-Sinner's Bloom."                Die Armesünderblum.

I stand at the cross-roads sighing,                  Am Kreuzweg stand ich und seufzte;
Wrapped in a cloak of gloom,                       Die Nacht war kalt und stumm.
And watch the moonlight trembling                Im Mondschein bewegte sich langsam
On the Poor-Sinner's Bloom.                        Die Armesünderblum.


I walked alone and thinking,
And faint the nightwind blew
And stirred on mounds at crossways
The flower of sinner's rue.

Where the roads part they bury
Him that his own hand slays,
And so the weed of sorrow
Springs at the four cross ways.

By night I plucked it hueless,
When morning broke 'twas blue:
Blue at my breast I fastened
The flower of sinner's rue.

It seemed a herb of healing,
A balsam and a sign,
Flower of a heart whose trouble
Must have been worse than mine.

Dead clay that did me kindness,
I can do none to you,
But only wear for breastknot
The flower of sinner's rue.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

SoBe Lifewater

Shakespyeare: Day 199 - Lakespeare

Reading The Tempest on Strawberry Lake
Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark, hark!
The watch-dogs bark.
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
                                                                                  Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 192 - Sharkspeare

An autocorrect from my friend Sunshine's kindle: Sharkeats -> Shakespeare. I'm not sure why she was googling Sharkeats...

#edit: I have my answer. She was typing I hope a shark eats Tara Reid. This raises as many questions as it answers.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 191 - Finnish Magic

Shakespeare is always up for a shoutout to parts partly unknown (see the coast of breast implants). In The Comedy of Errors, Bill gives a nod to his northern neighbors who apparently have quite the reputation:

               Sure these are but imaginary wiles,
               And Lapland sorcerers inhabit here.

Follow-up googling has led to no satisfactory explanations of what the bard had in mind concerning Finnish magic, though sources assure me that English literature is rife with vague references to the still (in the 17th century) unconverted peoples of Finland, but I did find this great walrus hunting picture:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Collected Online Works

Here's a list of all my poems, translations, and readings that have found their way online. I'm a bit old fashioned and usually submit to print journals (three of four poems of the poems below are from print magazines that eventually repost material online). So this ends up to be a random sampling but still a representative one, except in translation (I work on more poets than just Agnar). Anyway, cheers!



Readings and Lectures


Monday, June 24, 2013

Odd Advertisement: McDonalds - Mouthopia

McDonalds has a baffling advertisement for the Big Mac: Mouthopia. This compound, made of the Old English mouth and Greek suffix topia, from topos (place), seems to mean mouthplace or mouthland. That is not a place I'd like to be. I assume they meant to play off utopia (no place) but went astray when they picked a th word, breaking up topia. This opens up another interpretation: mouth/opia, a medical condition of the mouth, perhaps one you get from eating a Big Mac. Kudos to McDonalds though for keeping up with current research and depicting dinosaurs as feathered.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Strange Fortune VII

More singular serendipity (this time in the form of advice) brought to you by China Garden.

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Memoriam

Gertrude Petra Landrum
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 

(Matthew 19:13-15)

In Memoriam

For your birthday, G. We'll see each other.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

And now the internet is the arbiter of taste...

The Strange Signs Whitmore Lake - Part I

My trash can - "inedible darling"

My garage door - is there a HERS somewhere?
My landlady's playbuoy pontoon lives in my yards during the winter

The menu at the local ice-cream shop advertises options from "south of the boarder."
"Boarder" means someone who rents, not at all the same thing as "border."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Morass of Magazine Monikers

Sorting through the masses of literary journals to find one worth reading or worth submitting to is a hard thing. I remember leafing through Poet's Market when sending out my first submissions and trying to figure out what was reputable. To add to the confusion, there are pairs out there like the ones below:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dreaming of Distance

I fantasized at length of how it might be, to have enough money and single-mindedness to leave suddenly without explaining myself, go somewhere simple and clean, far from here, like the island of Kumlinge in the Baltic.

I saw myself in watery sunlight, divested of all obligations and connections, walking without luggage along a narrow road by a sandy bay, with sea thrift and gorse and a solitary pine, a road that rose to a promontory and a plain white country church…

...everything could be resolved in Kumlinge, where the air and light were pure.
                                - Ian McEwan (Sweet Tooth)

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Blue Day's Reading: Last Spring - Gottfried Benn (trans. Michael Hofmann)

Fill yourself up with the forsythias
and when the lilacs flower, stir them in too
with your blood and happiness and wretchedness,
the dark ground that seems to come with you.

Sluggish days. All obstacles overcome.
And if you say: ending or beginning, who knows,
then maybe—just maybe—the hours will carry you
into June, when the roses blow.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reebok: Cheat on your girlfriend campaign

One more:

Don't have a boyfriend? Get proactiv!

I discussed the recent Abercrombie & Fitch debacle (see previous post) with students today in my college writing class. One brought up a recent ad from proactiv. More insidious than the admission that Abercrombie & Fitch uses targeted marketing (which we all already knew), this ad stakes personal value and lovability on clear skin. I can only say that I disagree.

come away with me...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Abercrombie & Fitch Fiasco

Background: there's been a media and facebook storm about Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries saying that they market toward attractive people and thus do not make sizes for people who are overweight. Jeffries is quoted as followed:

"Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."

Let me say that I find this sentiment and strategy awful. But it's not surprising and I wouldn't be shocked to find this sort of mindset widespread in retail. Furthermore, it doesn't bother me at all that a company would focus on clothes tailor-made for thin people. Though Jeffries' reasons are offensive, specializing in clothing for small/thin people is not.

I am thin. Though the trend is changing as I near thirty, I have always had problem keeping weight on. Go for a week vacation in S. America or live (and eat) with a person on a diet and I dip below a healthy weight. I'm pleased that I've been able to put on more muscle lately but that hasn't been easy until recently. 

Because of my height and weight, I have to special order all my shirts online. Standard larges make me look like a dirigible and standard mediums show off my stomach if I raise my arms. Clothing simply isn't tailored to my body type. Large t-shirts from Faroe fit well; the population is generally thinner. But I have an awful time of it in the United States. 

It makes sense to me that a store would focus its efforts on making excellent clothing for a certain body type. Doing so is a common strategy. Lane Bryant - a plus sized women's store - doesn't sell sizes smaller than 14. No-one is protesting them or threatening boycott because they discriminate against the petite. If it's okay for Lane Bryant to make excellent clothes designed for a target body type, it isn't so strange that Abercrombie & Fitch do the same. It would be nice though if they had better motives for doing so.

Teaching Ithaca

We had a breakfast at school today honoring our first graduating seniors. Afterwards, my college writing class, which all the seniors attend, held a Socratic discussion on the question "what is the future?" They shared viewpoints and argued on statements from the future does not exist to we shape our futures. At the end, I shared this, one of my favorite poems, read by Sir Sean Connery (whom they love). This is the wish I impart to the young scholars of the class of 2013 as they set out to pursue their dreams in the wider world:

    Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you're destined for.
    But don't hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so that you're old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
    Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
   Without her you would have not set out.
   She has nothing left to give you now.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaca won't have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you'll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 118 - Kola Tea

I read The Merchant of Venice recently and came at last to a line that was the basis of a familiar joke growing up. Portia's impassioned speech, though it cannot sway Shylock to act with kindness of his own accord, is lovely and sweeping:

The quality of mercy is not strained; 
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven 
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; 
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: 
'T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes 
The throned monarch better than his crown: 
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, 
The attribute to awe and majesty, 
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; 
But mercy is above this sceptred sway; 
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings, 
It is an attribute to God himself; 
And earthly power doth then show likest God's 
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, 
Though justice be thy plea, consider this, 
That, in the course of justice, none of us 
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy; 
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render 
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much 
To mitigate the justice of thy plea; 
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice 
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

My father told me this joke as a child, long before I ever read Shakespeare:

A man walks into a tea-shop while on holiday in Marseille and asks the waiter about the specials. He is told that the house serves a delicious green tea that is doubly special because it is brewed by koalas at the local zoo. Thinking this interesting and always up for sampling local delicacies while on vacation, he orders a some. When his order comes, he picks up the mug and takes a big gulp. 

Almost immediately, he begins coughing and spluttering. He spits the tea back into his mug and begins wiping his tongue with a napkin. The waiter hurries over and asks if everything is all right.

"Of course it's not alright." the man says. "You didn't bother to strain out this tea. I got about half-way through a sip and started choking on the leaves."

"But don't you know?" the waiter responds. "The koala tea of Marseille's not strained."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Saturday's Reading: Express Train - Gottfried Benn (trans. Michael Hofmann)

I keep coming back to Gottfried Benn in the last translation issue of Poetry. Michael Hofmann, who also translated a book of Durs Grünbein a friend sent me for Christmas, nails these poems, putting them in situ and making them contemporary at once. They make me ready for summer, swimming, heat.


Brown. Brandy-brown. Leaf-brown. Russet.
Malayan yellow.
Express train Berlin-Trelleborg and the Baltic resorts.

Flesh that went naked.
Tanned unto the mouth by the sea.
Deeply ripened for Grecian joys.
How far along the summer, in sickle-submissiveness!
Penultimate day of the ninth month!

Parched with stubble and the last corn-shocks.
Unfurlings, blood, fatigue,
deranged by dahlia-nearness.

Man-brown jumps on woman-brown.

A woman is something for a night.
And if you enjoyed it, then the next one too!
O! And then the return to one’s own care.
The not-speaking! The urges!

A woman is something with a smell.
Ineffable! To die for! Mignonette.
Shepherd, sea, and South.
On every declivity a bliss.

Woman-brown drapes itself on man-brown:

Hold me! I’m falling!
My neck is so weary.
Oh, the sweet last
fevered scent from the gardens.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 113 - Date Night?

I've been a bit of a slacker on my Shakespeare reading and watching over the last few months. I'm counting on a summer rebound (and finishing King John (bleh) should make me a bit more motivated). I'm planning on moving through some of the plays through film, especially ones I've read.

I stumbled across a new version of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Joss Whedon (Buddy, Firefly, The Avengers). It looks excellent.

I also plan to watch Caesar Must Die, 10 Things I Hate About You, Anonymous, The Tempest, and Enemy of Man. I don't like watching films alone and I could use some Shakespeare buddies. So my offer: if you'd like to join me in my Shakespyeare adventure (and perhaps appear in my blog), get in touch. Tickets and popcorn on me!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lenten Psalm Translation Contest: Winner

I set my psalm contest in the hopes that the challenge would provide a reflective space during Lent. And I think it did. Each of this year's entrants shows a deep engagement with and internationalization of the texts they were working with. They each showed poetic skill and personal vision. I'm grateful for the chance to have read them.

I want to write that I am pleased to announce the results and share with you Jen Hinst-White's winning psalm. And I am. But I am also humbled and grateful for that opportunity. There is a power and solemnity here (as well as a playfulness and music) that makes me hesitant to give a typical grandstand announcement.

Hinst-White's version of the twenty-fifth psalm, sent as part of an essay, is beautiful, powerful, and mysterious in an age that has ceased to take beauty, power, and mystery particularly seriously. It captures the tension of the psalms - how long, Lord? with You have been a shelter... Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand... with Oh my God, in you I trust. Her paper airplane motif is a perfect symbol of human weakness and the difficulty of the divine task of guiding loved, frail vessels. I wrote to her that only she and M.I.A. could pull off paper planes so well.

There's much more I could say about this poem but I won't. The poem will do itself justice much more than I can.

To the Pilot Bridegroom

      after Psalm 25

At your hangar door I toss me: a paper plane.
Bring me in from the rain—take me ragged, and keep me
            all clear of the suck of the great turbines
Collect me and read me, wee stormied scrap,
            and scrap those still scrapping us windward,
            O God—
Don’t forget. Fold aright, and write New on my wing—
make limp paper sing—here, then, the wait—
but love’s side-lying
Eight guides all your flights. Right? Remind me. Remind me.
Find me kindly. Not back in my writhing, wriggling loose of my binding—
            forgive me, still wild—
God of the Polestar. Pilot Bridegroom. Pied Guider.
He gathers scorched ribbons for the tails of his kites.
If he finds paper squares, he folds cranes for his skies,
and so newsprint shares airspace with stars.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

More on Google Translate

Yesterday I read Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct while waiting around for a carpet install. Bored and a bit addled from reading about deep structural rules, I texted my friend IKEA to to with me go weekend this want? I love the wording of her reply: Did google translate happen to this text?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Google Translate - Micro-languages and Faroese

The auto-detect feature of Google Translate identifies Faroese as Icelandic. That's understandable, as Faroese and Icelandic share unique characters and are similar in syntax and vocabulary. The Icelandic translator is nonetheless ill-equipped for Faroese. It gets some words right, ignores others, and wildly misconstrues meanings of sentences and phrases. Oddly, every time I put a text in now it invariably spits out a variant of "one can achieve perfection" (as evidenced on my earlier blog).

Google Translate covers 65 languages with several betas in progress. In descending order, here are the bottom five languages by smallest number of speakers - Welsh (700,000), Maltese (400,000), Icelandic (320,000), Irish (130,000), and Esperanto (10,000). The last is an artificial language. I'll blog about that later, but I am of the opinion that an artificial language is no language at all as it lacks the depth and idiom of natural language. So I'm not counting it. The pattern of the above: European languages spoken in interesting places, all of them islands. Faroese (60,000) deserves a place on the list.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 98 - Car Repair

I took a brief hiatus from reading King John over my spring break, focusing instead on writing lectures for the  University of Michigan and Cornerstone. Still, Shakespeare was there when I needed him. The bulky heft of the complete works depressed the accelerator, holding the throttle body open for cleaning.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Feats of Translation

Beth Bates, prose editor for Booth Journal, sent a tweet in my direction asking for a list of "impressive feats of translation." A feat, to me, means a messy sort of translation or version, a hybrid, a borrowing which creates a new work distinct for the original. Here the face of the original author blends with that of the translator. Beth's timing is fortuitous. As I kicked around ideas for my list, I found fodder for my upcoming talk at the University of Michigan. So, in no particular order, feats of which I am fond:

  • This essay on Taiwanese literature contains a translation of a character poem into English that is visionary in its Anglicization of the ideas contained in the three characters 兵, 乒, and 乓.
  • Geoffrey Brock's mashup of Rimbaud, Rilke, and Seferis ties together three poems from three languages by linking the common phrase change your life.
  • Though maligned by critics, such as E. Bruce Brookes in this snarky article on the University of Massachusetts, Seamus Heaney's version of Horace's Ode I, 34 is the best poetic response I've found for 9-11.
  • With the poem "When You Are Old," W. B. Yeats pulled off one of the greatest coups of English literature. He managed to pass off Ronsard's French sonnet off as his own. I'll give him that his ending is much better.
  • Of the three versions I've found of Housman's Latin ode to his friend and unrequited love, Moses Jackson, this one replicates is an a Housman's voice and phrasing to an amazing degree. 
  • Eliot's "The Wasteland" must be mentioned for its sheer pastiche and the notable use of the Greek Anthology, a rarely read text I cannot recommend enough.
  • I started translating after hearing Cass Dalglish talk about translating cuneiform tablets from the Akkadian. She told the story of how she lay awake in the darkness in Cuba and listened to distant Afro-jazz drumming and the project clicked - jazz translations riffing off the original language which is full of multiple interpretations and choices for each character. Here are two poems she read at that reading.
  • Marlowe's Ovid landed him in hot water with the censors - but when wasn't he in hot water? A vastly underrated poet who may have rivaled Shakespeare had he lived as long, I love his plays and this translation in particular. 
  • The homophone/half-translation of Catullus by Zukofsky. I can only find bits of the text online
  • On a recent trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts, I read the plaque for "The Diggers" by Van Gogh which explained that the painter viewed this work as a translation of this etching by Millet.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In Barnes & Noble

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Poetic Obsessions II - Word Frequency

A year and a half ago, I wrote a blog on the words I'd used the most in my writing in 2011. It gave a good flavor for the year. Here is this year's list. I think the tone and tenor of my life, or at least my obsession(s), has changed. These compass sixty pages of drafts and poems, many of which are the hashing and rehashing of the same material, hence obsession - movement, heat, and the body it seems.

49 city, 44 summer, 30 bodies, 29 salt, 27 sun, 26 days, 25 mornings, 20 hands, 19 taste, 18 white, 18 skin, 18 would, 16 strawberries, 16 breath, 15 park, 15 heat, 14 salinity, 14 tarmac, 13 train, 12 airport, 12 statues, 12 picnic, 10 tongues, 10 sweat, 10 mineralization, 10 eggs, 9 delectation, 8 K________, 8 fluidity, 8 jealousy, 8 dry, 8 apogee, 7 suburbs, 7 tomatoes, 6 hips, 6 fluency, 6 graffitied, 6 gardens, 6 desire, 6 Berlin, 6 delight, 6 exhalation, 5 awkwardness, 4 Tiergarten, 4 sunbound, 4 seas, 4 shit, 4 palliation, 4 heelskip, 4 fog, 4 caesarian, 3 sweaters, 3 resorts, 2 lines, 2 unsure, 2 untranslatable

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 79 - Othello and Generosity

Tea, Complete Works, and Stack of Books
I spent the evening at the local cafe finishing Othello and playing a few covers for the open mic. A stranger passing my table glanced down at what I was reading. "A Shakespeare fan?" he asked. I told him about my year of the Bard. He smiled and said, "I'll be right back." 

He returned with a satchel and set it down in front of me. "I was just on my way to drop these at the library for donation. Take what you like." I opened the bag to find it stuffed full of pocket Shakespeare volumes. I took the obscure one's - Timon of Athens, Pericles of Tyre, Coriolanus, and such. How pleasant to meet new friends and find William lurking in unexpected places!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 74 - Kabuki Macbeth

Teaching kabuki and noh to my World Literature class today, I discovered this eerie rendering of Macbeth with kabuki versions of the weird sisters. Fair is foul and foul is fair...


Thursday, March 14, 2013

I've Got a Blues - Updates and Miscellany

I went with a friend to the Kat Edmonson concert in downtown Ann Arbor last night. The concert was nice, if a bit low key - overall, good. But there was one thing that grated on me. She told a story about listening to Eric Clapton and wanting to write a blues. A blues. Not the blues. Not a blues song. She went on to tell about a dream she had in which a blues came to her and she woke up and wrote it down. There is no a blues only the blues. Kat Edmonson is pretty and so could get by with songs that made me want to nap (yes, I'm swayable by beauty - I'm not proud of it) but there is no indefinite form of blues.

Other updates - 
  • Four of my translations from the Faroese of Jóanes Nielsen are appearing in the spring issue of Modern Poetry in Translation. 
  • My Lenten Psalm Translation Contest has 17 days left. Some great pieces have come through - submit!
  • I'm considering a Faroe/Europe trip this summer - pending funding.
  • Pondering the best way to make green punch for Saint Patrick's Day - send recipes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Psalm Contest Update

We're just past the halfway point of Lent with 19 days left to go. I've received some excellent Psalm translations in the last few days including two translations of Psalm 51 with radically different approaches yet a similarly fierce poetic. One calls God my Source, my Sword, my Suture. The other rewrites the psalm from the perspective of a prisoner in a chain-gang shoring up a levee on the Mississippi during a flood. Whether your translation is alluvial or full of ice and fire, I am hoping to hear from you. Details here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 62 - King Lear in Detroit

Tucked between Wayne State University, burned out mansions, and Comerica Park, the Detroit Art Institute straddles the fault lines of post-urban Detroit. The museum was built and stocked during the heyday of industrial Detroit. Now, beset by budgetary concerns, they manage to hang onto a collection of decent work while bringing in an occasional smallish international exhibit like the five Van Gogh paintings I drove the hour to see.

A feeling of unevenness hangs about the museum. I stood before paintings I'd seen in books such as Brughel's Wedding Dance then turned and walked through halls of work that was clearly not up to the scratch for a major city's art museum. Somewhere in the middle to middling range, a painting of King Lear. Though perhaps a bit overwrought, it captures the atmosphere of a line I've remembered from childhood, "this night will turn us all into fools and madmen."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Psalm Contest - Updates

I received the first entry to this year's contest about a week ago, a version of Psalm 139 by a former Bennington classmate. The Bay Psalm Book renders a part of the original as If I take mornings wings; and dwell / where utmost sea-coasts be / even there thy hand shall me conduct. The first submission flips this to say that God too is unable to escape the psalmists presence. They are stuck with one another. I wish I could share more but don't want to to let the cat out of the bag or unduly influence other writers in their approach. Plenty of time left to get your entry in. $200 up for psalming grabs. See the details here and last year's winner here. Submit!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Odd Advertisement - The Art of the Tart

This Yankee Candle advertisement caught my eye last night while I was shopping at Meijer. It brought to my mind an alternative meaning of the word tart. Tart - Noun - A prostitute or promiscuous woman. The article the is the key to this interpretation. The indicates that a noun will follow. Not tart but the tart. The art of the prostitute doesn't seem like a great slogan for selling candles. If one takes the registration mark in the subtext to be a possessive apostrophe, this interpretation get even more unfortunate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lenten Psalm Translation Contest

Happy Fat Tuesday, dear reader. For lent this year, I'm hosting another Psalm Translation Contest (see the previous posting here). Last year's winner wrote a brilliant reversal of Psalm 26. Entrants went on to publish their translations in Image, A-Minor Magazine, and The Missouri Review. So, round two...

Rules: Pick any biblical Psalm and translate it into English (foreign language entries welcome with literal translation included). Mangle, tangle, make strange, reverse, jump off from - in short do whatever you like with your psalm as long as the result is strong poetry. No knowledge of Hebrew is necessary. Entries will be judged (by panel) on originality, musicality, accuracy (to the psalm's spirit), and aesthetics. Send entries to MatthewDLandrum(at)gmail(dot)com.

Prize: $200 and a beat-up copy of George Steiner's "After Babel - Aspect of Language and Translation." Winners will be published on this blog.

Deadline: Easter Sunday (March 31, 2013)

Resources: Hebrew/English interlinear Psalms, Interlinear Bible,Matthew Henry commentary, Thomas Aquinas commentary w/ Latin-English translation.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Google Mistranslations II

Three of my poems (translated into Faroese by Agnar Artúvertin) are appearing in the next issue of Varðin. Agnar coined a new word to translate my use of gloss (shine and explanation) - orðaglitri/wordglitter. So nice to have my own Faroese word. I've plugged the poems into google translate (which mistakes Faroese for Icelandic). As with last time strangeness ensued. All three poems came back with a variant of the phrase one can achieve perfection. Here are some lines:

  • And you standing by the end of the laser Lotus...
  • You breath in the routine.
  • Sit anchor the tendon jar, hot and tongue / clay.
  • One can achieve perfection, some settled.
  • He remembers mountains / and one gent, whether he faces open sea in the dream.
  • One can achieve perfection, sense love.
  • So subside darkness stations.
  • Now any one can achieve perfection. / All do the same.
  • The houses, high sense create.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 30 - To Elf

my friend Becky, hair elfed
Elf - verb - to tangle, knot, or mat.

I came across this lovey verb in my latest Shakespeare reading (King Lear). In scene VII, a fugitive Edgar decides to disguise himself as a mad hobo to evade capture: My face I'll grime with filth, / Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots, / And with presented nakedness outface / The winds and persecutions of the sky.

This echoes Mercutio's strange rant on the nature of dreams in Romeo and Juliet. He tells Romeo that Queen Mab has visited him in his sleep and gives a litany of her nocturnal activities which includes fairy hairstyling: [She] plaits the manes of horses in the night / And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs, / Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes.

The motto of Fróðskaparsetur Føroya is "oh gentle elves set light to lead the Faroes on their starry way from age to age. One can only hope this guidance includes a fair amount of hair knotting.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 17 - The Coast of Breast Implants

In searching for commentary on Shakespeare's mention of the coast of Bohemia (which does not exist, Bohemia being landlocked), I came across this autofill option on google. One would assume that the googlers mistyped the cost of breast implants. Still, the coast of breast implants it makes for an interesting, surreal mental image.

Shakespyeare: Day 17 - Zip and Shakespeare

Our school snake gets into Shakespeare's complete works.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shakespyeare: Day 16 - Dog and Bear

I read Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Winter's Tale in the past weeks. The two plays are representative of the extreme chronological ends of Shakespeare's career. Animals make memorable appearances in both, a dog in the former, a bear in the latter.

In TGV, the servant Launce's dog, Crab, runs amok, eating food and soiling rugs. Hapless Launce, takes blame for all these things, even urinating indoors, to save his beloved pet and is pilloried.

The best stage direction I've ever read occurs in TWT - exit, pursued by a bear. Spoiler: the bear mauls the guy, just deserts for dumping a baby on the desert shores of Bohemia (neither desert nor coast exist there).

Proteus giving a mangy mutt as a token of love to Silva is a nice comic touch. The editor for the Oxford Complete Shakespeare points out that after TGV Shakespeare didn't repeat the experiment of giving a large role to an animal, perhaps because of their unpredictability. So, though there is some speculation that the Globe may have used a real bear from the bear-baiting pits for TWT, I have my doubts. I do like the idea of a Russian bear rampaging across Shakespeare's stage.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Strange Search Engine Queries

Over the last year people have stumbled across my blog on google searching the following terms:
  • matt landrum boat scrubbing service
  • cremolada pucallpa
  • connection chain
  • over-accessorized
  • nuala ní dhomhnaill "bisexual"
  • oxford for fall fashion
  • faroese beach
  • gentleman's haircut
  • gender in the bhagavad gita
  • matthew landrum army
  • green hair in the bitter sea
  • homo phone
  • pyrrha piranha 
  • elision ephemeral epiphany
  • matthew landrum sales
  • sad bubble zoloft
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  • whitmore lake tavern menu
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  • how to wear fashion
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  • matt landrum and whitmore lake

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In Taberna Quando Sumus...

When we are in the tavern, we do not think how we will go to dust we parse grammar and style on menu (click on the picture for a more readable view):

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lorca Whale II

My poor student is closer to his translating doom - the Lorca whale is getting closer as he works on translating "In the Garden of Lunar Grapefruits." Another student drew this, inspired by the first.

A Book a Week in 2012 - Failure

A Book a Week in 2012

For the last two years, I read an average of a book a week. In 2012, I set out with the same goal but got waylaid and came up short. As much as I would have liked to meet my reading resolution, I think its a valuable lesson to accept that sometimes life gets in the way and 70% has to be enough. I could make a defense and point out that I read at least a dozen issues of Poetry Magazine or claim extenuating life circumstances but instead, I’ll list what I read along with some highlights and statistics.

The Children’s Book - A. S. Byatt
MacBeth – William Shakespeare
Hay – Paul Muldoon
Green Squall – Jay Hopler
Envy – Joseph Epstein
Ether/Ore – Brett Jenkins
Trojan Women – Seneca (trans. A.K Boyle)
Ashes for Breakfast – Durs Grünbein (trans. Michael Hofman)
Love Stories/Hate Stories – Russ Wood & Brett Jenkins
Victims of a Map - Samih al-Qasim, Adonis, & Mahmud Darwish (trans. Abdullah al-Udhari)
The Deleted World – Tomas Tranströmer (trans. Robin Fulton)
Ode to Walt Whitman and Other Poems – Federico Garcia Lorca (trans. Carlos Bauer)
Birds of a Lesser Paradise – Megan Mayhew Bergman
Corruption – Camille Norton
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
 Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
The Bhagavad Gita – (trans. Juan Mascaro)
My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (trans. Edith Grossman)
The Apple Speaks – Becca Lachman
The Seven Very Liberal Arts – Marilyn Taylor
The Birth of Classical Europe – Simon Price
Passions and Ancient Days – C.P. Cavafy (trans. Edmund Keeley & Phillip Sherrard)
The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides
Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Nifflinger
The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson
The Casual Vacancy – J.K Rowling
In the Garden of Beast – Erik Larson
Shakespeare: the World as Stage – Bill Bryson
The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis
Berlin Stories – Robert Walser (trans. Susan Bernofsky)
Descartes’ Bones – Russell Shorto
My Unwritten Books – George Steiner
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
Things Fall Part – Chinua Achebe

Some Lines:
  • Purity of heart is to will one thing. (Søren Kierkegaard)
  • Once there was a city that was at war for ten years. Eventually it was destroyed; many people were killed and their women taken into slavery. (Linda Gregerson)
  • Facts are surprisingly delible. (Bill Bryson)
  • The beginning is an artifice and what recommends one over another is how much sense it makes of what follows. (Ian McEwan)
  • Every letter was a love letter. (Jeffrey Eugenides)
  • What has become of us as a people that we can possess the beautiful only in dreams? (Robert Walser)

Some Statistics:
  • 35 Books
  • 26% in translation
  • 32% poetry
  • 35% female writers
  • 7243 pages 

Sigh No More