January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
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.
December 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
November 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
– Edwin Morgan
The slippery snake insinuates itself in the sinewy lines and, in ouroboral fashion, begins and ends the poem. If we uncoil Morgan’s concrete creation we get this: a spontaneous obstreperous osmosis of hysterically snorting posses of sporting she-hippopotamuses spotting a little floating asp!; or, The Fall of Safari Animals. Morgan’s careful layout clusters similar letters together so that the poem looks like one tangled mess of a word, the repeating sounds tripping over each other. If we pay particular attention to the broken-off bits that book-end the poem, we get this summarization of sin:
June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
P o o l
P e o p l
e p l o p!
C o o l.
– Edwin Morgan
Summer strikes. People plash. Basho nods. (Someone pees in pool.)
April 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
– Edwin Morgan
Goonhilly Downs, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel, contains the Satellite Earth Station, a cluster of satellite dishes that was once the largest ground station in the world. “Unscrambling the Waves at Goonhilly” starts as a garbled satellite transmission trying to relay the names of various sea creatures. Like the computer in “the Computer’s First Christmas Card”, the satellite, or the scientists manning the satellite, must make several attempts to sort out a simple message. The transmission ends up being a list of rather mundane marine life ending in telstar, which sounds like an aquatic animal but is actually a type of satellite. This semi-surprise ending emphasizes the tension between the phonetic and spatial aspects of the poem; when we hear star we think it will match with fish, but we see that the two could not be paired with each other. Part of the fun is watching the odd combos that result in the syllables bouncing off each other before finding their proper partner — dogphin (dog’s fin?), hadfish (lost at sea?), sardock (cynical sardine?)