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.
May 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh —
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.
– X. J. Kennedy
By the use of doubled-up words throughout (“toe upon toe”, “nothing on. Nor on”, “parts to let her parts”), Kennedy mimics the overlapping motion of Duchamp’s famous nude figure. The poet imagines the figure as female, whereas the artist never mentions its gender, but I think the latter would appreciate the the anatomical mischief the former splays across the stanzas (the poem’s wordplay is reminiscent of that in L.H.O.O.Q.)