‘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 🙂

“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 🙂

“And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter— they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.” ― Sylvia Plath

There are two sides to every story

The Confidant – Hélène Grémillon

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Another truly beautiful piece of literature to add to my read list. ‘The Confidant’ was given to me by my partners godparents as a Christmas present last year, and sadly ended up hidden in the bottom of a box until a few weeks ago, one of the downsides of having moved house and never fully unpacked. Having just read and thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ I was excited at the prospect of getting started on another piece of French literature, and potentially giving myself a nice topic of conversation for our next family dinner.

‘The truth lies hidden in the past’ is such a fitting tagline for this novel. Grémillon draws the reader into the depths of a long hidden secret, of longing, forbidden love, betrayal, and revenge. The novel achieves an almost perfect blend of historical narration, thrilling suspense and harsh reality, the result of which is truly stunning.

It is 1975, and in her apartment in Paris, Camille receives an anonymous letter, a letter narrating the lives individuals seemingly unrelated to Camille, surely the letter has been sent to her by mistake? The anonymous letters continue to fill the post box of Camille’s Paris flat, and a long hidden secret begins to unravel before her very eyes. As the story unfolds Camille becomes desperate to discover the source of the letters, before finally succumbing to the realisation that it is her own story which is being told. The story of pre war France, a young boy in love, a young girl eager to please, and a rich and lonely madame is inextricably linked to Camille’s unlikely friendship with the concierge of her apartment building, the recent death of her mother, and the future of her unborn child.

What struck me about this book was the profound effect it has on my emotions. As the secret unraveled I found myself taken on an emotional journey of empathy and hatred of Annie, and simultaneous hatred, and empathy for Madame M. There are two sides to every story, and Grémillon highlights this so perfectly, by the end of the novel I felt as though neither character did anything wrong. Their actions were inevitable, driven by emotion and instinct.

The story presents a fierce, raw examination of women, coupling motherhood and feminism with love, passion, and desire. In this respect there was one theme in particular that struck a chord with me, and that is Grémillon’s unrestrained examination of infertility.

Madame M’s yearning to have a baby is spoken of at length throughout the novel, and I find the way in which her desires are portrayed incredibly moving. The world around M seems almost super fertile, numerous women in Paris are falling pregnant, and the newspapers are awash with stories crying for the need for more babies:

‘Have more Children! Have more children, France must make up for her losses in 1914’.

M is described as going to all lengths to sure her infertility, even physically injuring herself in a desperate hope that someday she will discover a solution. She describes her constant consumption of an aphrodisiac made from wine and spices,  resorting even to bathing in the concoction to the point where:

‘Over time my skin acquired a spicy scent that disgusted me’

Gremillon delves further into the realms of M’s depression, describing at length her dismay at her sudden transformation into ‘the infertile woman’. What I think is the most striking description of this comes during a dinner with her Husbands family, his grandmother makes an announcement that someone at the table is with child, and the guests begin to guess who it could be:

‘Every name except Granny’s and my own. Because it was no longer possible for her, and for me, it never had been.’

This seems to be time when M finally succumbs to the fact that she will forever be the elephant in the room, the person whom everyone must be careful around, who is looked upon with pity. I found reading the following passage quite emotional, my heart goes out to anyone, who is ever made to feel this way:

‘Suddenly her eyes met mine and she looked away at once, her broad radiant smile frozen on her face, and a moment of awkwardness spread round the table. Silence. The game had yielded to the weight of reality, my reality. At that moment I realised I had become ‘the infertile woman’ in the family, the one whose presence absolutely precluded any displays of joy , the one who was so unfortunate that the happiness of others could prove fatal. My shame was confirmed

M’s story touched on something I feel is shied away from far too often: the unspoken ‘shame’ that is placed upon infertile woman. I found myself asking why? Why is being infertile considered something to be embarrassed about? The following quote was taken from a comment on a feministphilosophers blog post ‘On Becoming Infertile – Part 1’:

‘I feel like I’ve often been treated like a faulty baby machine rather than a person. The guilt, the shame, the sense of failure, the indignation and the grief have all been a lot to deal with’ (Commenter: L Stokes).

The idea that anyone should be made to feel this way is incredibly sad. M’s story took place in the early 20th century, and this is an issue that is still felt today. I very much admire Grémillon for approaching the subject.

There is so much more I could say about this book, so many themes which could be explored, but I feel I have written enough for now. For anyone reading this who has not, I would urge you to read the book, it is a beautifully written, thought provoking read. You will not be disappointed as you read the final page, and see the secret of fully unraveled and laying before you in its entirety. The novel is captivating to read and satisfying to have read.

When I finished ‘The Confidant’ I felt the indescribable mix of sadness and fulfillment which accompanies the completion of a really fantastic novel.