Sawmill Haiku

January 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

  An ancient frog
in an ancient outhouse
    Plop!

– Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Ferlinghetti is my No. 1 Beat poet even when writing about No. 2.

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Hymn to a Jeddart-Justicer

January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

The convicks sail the Reid Sea, pechin,
oarin the galley through,
rairin abune the shackle-nicherin
a sang of their hame — Peru.

Peru-fold, yowlin o Peru — their Paradise
the burdies, the jiggin, the tarts,
the croons o orange-flooers ticed
wi the baobab heavenwarts.

Bananas, ananas! Sic a tass o pleesures!
Wine in the bosie o the jaur…
Till the judged tuk Peru, like Caesars,
— guid kens for why, or frae whaur!

And the burdies and the jiggin and the she-Peruvians
were aa umbeset wi decreets.
The een o the judge are twin tin-cannikins
skancin in a midden. He treats

a blue-and-orange peacock to a luik,
a fish-cauld, lenten glaff —
the grand renbow on the tail o the peacock
like winkie groosit aff!

And nixt to Peru, fleein owre the prairie
are thae wee hummin-burdies:
the judge claucht wan puir colibri
and shaved it to the hurdies.

And nae strath noo has burnin bens
wi fierce volcanic lowe.
The judge tuk up his strathfu pen:
“Nae smokin in the Howe.”

My verse anaa in puir Peru
‘s unlawfu: penalty, torture.
The judge said: “Ye’ll no sell sic a brew
o liquor in this quarter.”

The equator grues as the shackles ring.
Peru’s loast wings and folk…
aa bar the judge, harsk, thrawn, mingein
cooerin in the law’s cope.

D’ye see the peety o the man o Peru?
Aff-loof they gied him to the galleys.
And the burdies and the jiggin, Peru, me, you —
The judge shak aa wi their malice.

– Vladimir Mayakovsky
translated by Edwin Morgan

Undoubtably more Morgan than Mayakovsky, this translation turns the futurist’s slang-lang into Scots. Another Vladimir (Nabokov) would have detested Morgan’s freedom with the translation (see Eugene Onegin or “The Art of Translation”), if one could call this a translation at all. “Patische” might be the better word; Mayakovsky’s poem (which I cannot find dressed in its original Russian garb) might be untranslatable. However, M & M were both defenders of the avant-guade, both wildly innovative and formidably formal, both interested in the sonic texture of language, both swimmers in the underground’s undercurrent — Mayakovsky’s experimental verse and ties to futurism, Morgan’s native Scots dialect fused with concrete poetry — that carried them away from the mainstream’s stream, so that Morgan’s stylistic flourishes contain Mayakovsky’s spirit even if only tangentially related to the original.

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