‘The provisional government is an egg’ – Ross Sutherland

I know I’ve been a little quiet of late but I’m trying to get back on track. Had a very busy July, with work, and a social life which seemed to spring from nowhere, and now I’m planning for an exciting couple of weeks InterRailling in Europe. But I will get a few posts done before hand. This one included.

So here it is, my next stop on the obscure poetry train, translation poetry!

I got the idea from a poetry evening I went to attended by Ross Sutherland. If you’re not familiar with Sutherland, you must check out some of his work, he’s brilliant, and absolutely hilarious.

The idea is to take a poem, and feed it through a piece of translation software until the original meaning is lost in translation errors. His manuscript National Language can be found here.

252294_458007547543644_1272932445_nI had a play around with Bing translator and one of my favourite poems – Rudyard Kipling’s The Way through the Woods . I didn’t run it through hundreds of times like Sutherland did, nor did I take words out in between translations and manipulate it in that way. I ran it through about 10 times, and then tidied the text up. If I have more time I might try following Sutherland’s process a little more carefully, but I’m still quite happy with the result I got from this one.

This is the original:

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.

And here is my mistranslated version:

They are out of the way, Les.
More than 70 years ago.
Gone back to the weather and the rain.
You would never know now
That once a forest was in the way.
Trees were planted
Based on the Bush administration;
And the heath’s pale sea anemones.
Only a custodian can see the Paluomakefu school.
The badgers do not.
At the end of the summer night,
A trout pond loops in the air conditioning.
And the Colleague Otter?
Well, he does not like the woods.
Therefore, some are searching.
Listen to your horse,
Dress pink,
Ride.
Solitodis Dim.
They know.
Take the old forest road.
There is no forest.

As always I had great fun playing around with this, although it did take me a little while to find some software which was unsophisticated enough to sufficiently obscure the meaning (sorry Bing). I would suggest trying this method out yourself if you’ve enjoyed any of the other methods I’ve tried out.

Once again, any suggestions for future blog posts are much appreciated 🙂

‘Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.’ — Robert Frost

Found prose poetry.

I actually stumbled across this idea on a teaching forum as a suggested homework for English literature students, still I liked the idea and gave it a go. As with all my obscure poetry so far, it’s fairly simple, but I think gives you a little more opportunity for being yourself than some of my past ideas.

The model is as follows: choose a piece of prose fiction; select a passage from the text; identify important words, phrases and sentences; arrange these excerpts into a poem. I think you can be fairly unrestrained with this sort of method, you could try choosing a specific structure and molding the text, or using free verse.  It’s also fine to rearrange order, wording and phrases, do whatever sounds most appealing to you.

I opted to use free verse and selected the final paragraphs from both books.

Here are the results:

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1984 — George Orwell

He gazed up. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.


He gazed up.
What kind of
Cruel, stubborn smile
as hidden beneath the dark moustache?
He had learned.
Tears trickled down his nose.
Everything was all right,
He had won the struggle,
He loved Big Brother.

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Frankenstein — Mary Shelley

“But soon,” he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

He sprung from the cabin-window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.


Soon I shall die.
I will no longer feel
these burning miseries,
the torturing flames.
My light will fade,
My ashes swept into the wind.
I will sleep.
Borne away by the waves,
Lost in the darkness.
Farewell.

My latest find is possibly my favourite so far, I really liked the freedom of constructing a poem in this way permitted me. If you find yourself at a loose end one afternoon give it a go, I’d love to see other people’s results.

As always, any suggestions for future methods would be greatly appreciated 🙂

“I like books whose virtue is all drawn together in a page or two. I like sentences that don’t budge though armies cross them.” ― Virginia Woolf

Obscure poetry round two – Final sentence poetry.

I was recommended this method of constructing poetry by a friend of a friend, and I instantly loved it! The idea is to choose a book, and construct a poem by taking the final sentence from each chapter, starting at the back and working forwards

I took a while browsing through the books at home and in the office before I chose two to use that I liked the look of, and then used a long train journey to London to construct my poetry. The main issue I encountered was with overly long sentences, I took each of these as they came, cutting some of them down, or running them across two lines, depending on what I thought sounded better.

The following are the end result:


1134855Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree – Albert Wendt

Forgive dear reader please confession
Of Humble man who is man got religion.
All is well in Lava,
So spake the Flying-Fox.
She visits her husband’s grave at Magiagi every Saturday afternoon,
We crucified him.
It is only a saint they are burying,
The only one you’ve got down is only a pampered nag.
If mine father mother brother and captain see me now;
He held up his hand proudly.
Mauga stood crowned by the last rays of the setting sun.


Billy Liar – Keith WaterhouseImage

I began the slow walk home,
I did not have the courage to turn around and look at my mother.
I put out the light.
The idea of ever seeing Stamp again,
Filled me with horror.
I beckoned to Liz.
I did not stop running until I was clear of Clogiron Lane,
And whistled all the way down the Arcade,
Getting the Ambrosian repeater gun into position.
And even while I was burying the calenders the feeling was still with me.
Why don’t you tell the boring little man to stick the job up his jacksy?
I watched her down Market Street until the swinging of her skirt was out of sight,
And went into the office.
Get stuffed.
I wondered what I was going to do about everything.


Again I had a lot of fun playing around with these and decided to spread the word a little further, this time to a friend who’s currently living over in Australia. His taste in books is a little unusual, but I really liked what he came up with:


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John Dies at the End – David Wong

Your ball.
I knew, of course, that it never, ever would.
I turned to John to tell him to find something sharp.
What’s in it?
I can’t believe you just said that,
One way or another,
This is gonna be the end.
I would have put a bullet in my own skull one minute later.
I snapped the padlock shut,
Then trudged inside the house.
Now, this is going to sound crazy…
Then in the fall, everything went to hell,
He then stabbed Xorox in the belly with her own hand.
Vegas was just the beginning.
Wanna play hockey?
And then came the voices.
I got nothing else out of her the rest of the night.
Do you have your ATM card?
Please come with me, sir.
I locked up and went to bed.


I’d recommend any of you creative types out there to give this a go, the method doesn’t really require a lot of effort at all, and I found some of the sentences worked together really well.

I’ve been given some great suggestions so far for other methods to include on my obscure poetry journey, so please feel free to send me any other ideas you might have.

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” ― Dr. Seuss

I recently discovered a fantastic creative activity – book title poetry.

The idea is fairly simple  take some books and arrange them into piles using their titles to make up the lines of a poem. I thoroughly recommend giving it a go if you haven’t already.

I came across the idea while at work casually browsing instagram on my lunch break and decided that I would make my own the second I got home. As soon as I walked through the door that evening I started taking books from their shelves. I’m normally quite a neat person, but I threw caution to the wind, not even bothering to remember which shelf had housed which book.

I didn’t choose books for any one reason in particular, some titles just stood out to me, or were phrases I thought would be useful. I don’t think particularly matters, I just went with what felt right. Once I had a good selection of books I started to arrange them, trying to make lines fit together and when I was happy with my ‘poem’ I took a picture.

My attempts:

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At a time like this,
Hard times,
The sands of time.
A cold unhurried hand.
A small part of me,
The man who would be King

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Farewell, my lovely.
The boy who kicked pigs
Going solo,
Where angels fear to tread.
The love of a good woman.

When I’d made a couple I decided to try a constructing a political poem using a selection of my old text books, and a few stolen from my boyfriend’s study:

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Political thinkers,
Lords of poverty,
Syndromes of corruption,
The white man’s burden.
Karl Marx,
Rebel with a cause,
Banker to the poor.

I had such a great time trying this out that I passed the idea on to a friend who’s currently working overseas in Canada and feeling a little bored. She loves trying out new ways of stretching her creativity, so I gave her the task of taking titles from the public library and sending me the pictures to use alongside my own.

I absolutely love what she came up with – here are the pictures, and translations from french:

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The last week of May,
A taste of paradise,
A heart full of hope.
Not bad.

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Loving eyes,
The colour of lies,
Nothing more than one night,
The little bastard.

It can be quite therapeutic to try out, and if you have a lot of book titles you will be surprised what you can find. Sometimes the poems will just come together on their own  as was the case with last poem here, which uses a few titles by the same author.

This little activity got me thinking about the process of writing a poem. We didn’t really ‘write’ these poems, they already existed, and just needed putting together. So I started to wonder, how else can poetry be created from ‘found’ words? And, what other unusual methods of creating poetry are there? With this in mind I’ve decided to do some research into interesting techniques for constructing poetry, rather than writing it, and I’ve set up the ‘obscure poetry’ section of my blog in which to do this.

If any of you have any suggestions feel free to comment or drop me an email, ideas are always welcome 🙂