Thursday, January 23, 2014

Inverse Translation #10 after Ariana Reines

No, I don't live here.
an half-inverse translation after Ariana Reines

by Susan Calvillo

I’m no warrior, I’ve no walls
I stand under willows, I wear no chains
I sleep with both eyes open, I keep owls
awake. I want to live forever, to feel
the heat of stirring blood.
I am open-armed in a literal sense.
I don’t give myself hugs. I’m not bad
with a frying pan. I’m even better with a fork.
Mi honor está estudiando en otro país.
Seventeen was a very good year, I’ve been trying
to get back ever since. I’d be lying if I said
I don’t have asthma or compare myself to the famous
and I dress like I just stumbled through
twelve closets. I’m perfect in that complex way
where everyone’s perfect because I sort of forget
the point of flaws, until I do remember
and realize I’m just as bad as everyone else.
I’m [insert relevant descriptor here].
Before the house was built, there were cows.
Accents go over my head. Houses
go under my feet.
The fires are always off in the distance
somewhere under the smoke. It makes your eyes water
like when fireworks are set off too close and scraps
drop down on you. Careful. You can really damage
your iris one little scratch at a time. Fireworks were invented
by the Chinese but that has nothing to do with what
my grandpa did for us. He wasn’t one to hide. He ran
for his life and ours. It was never in the news.
Neighbors always shared roofs.
When we could we shared them too.
Standing on guard outside, I dream
of the lines in my palm and where they go
since my lungs don’t know the difference
between being a man or a woman.
I’m often clothed
by a nuclear family, which is crazy as any other
family behind the remote control.
As far as anyone else knows we’re all perfectly normal
so why should we run now?
A TV guide can overstay its welcome.
We make homes of nothing.
My Hispanic brothers get blamed too often.
Men wishing to share their opinion
when they finish eating
might share it with actions, might share
a home.




This is an inverse translation of Ariana Reines' "Dream House." Unlike other poems, I only translated half of this poem. This one was more of a challenge to sustain, so I only included the more successful portion.
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Reines' original poem follow the link here


Inverse Translation #9 after Andrew Elliott

Mechanical Heal
an inverse translation after Andrew Elliott

by Susan Calvillo

Not that anyone’s looking, but my latest digital signature resembles an electrocardiogram flatline. It writes so little proof of my presence that no one bothers to check it anymore.


The frame, the plastic monitor, and stylus add up to a brief interlude at the check-out, but not to a name featuring the curlicues and loops of a girl once voted “mostly like to succeed” in a high school yearbook.

I blame sloth. I must be on my way. The check-out clerk must be on to the next customer. The only consequence of calling out this lame excuse for my identification is an ever-growing disgruntled line.

We are presented with so many opportunities to correct frowns, as if any of us ever bother interfering in public. Evidence of my existence in grayscale.

Brief motions like these press me to run from myself. This unwavering impression, this digital recording reveals, as ever, this is just what I am.

No thumbprints needed. No tissue sample. Anyone in this line behind me could be me, every last one of them could draw a line too, and they likely will in turn.



This is an inverse translation of Andrew Elliott's "Killers."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Elliott's original poem follow the link here


Inverse Translation #7 & 8 after Mary Ruefle

Two Poems - inverse translations after Mary Ruefle
by Susan Calvillo


Fixed Think

I rejuvenate.
I hate no one.
I blame no one.
I blurt: they aren’t naked
trees swaddled by the rain.
There goes a horrid striped
blue legion—golly, conformity!
So always
I am placed up there.




Trash Island

Tomorrow I will stand on a car floating
in the ocean. A wise man will greet me
without ivory tusks.
He stills on a hill of plastic bottles.
He meditates under a tree of tires.
He isn’t ancient.
Normally I am stuffing myself
with vitamins and prune juice
because the junkyard’s daughter
can dance on top of anything.
None of us will ever get younger
but a spider might save us.
This is the “what is and what will be.”
The more we run from it the larger it gets.
I’m so young.
The sun is too weak for me.
There is nowhere left to sit.
I like the taste of air.
It carries a hint of fire.
A little stolen piece of the sun.
Air makes no shadow on the human eye.
It takes too much effort.
I spill my secrets
then stay to listen some more.
I get why you’re leaving.
I see why you’ve gone.
Let’s put on some socks
and brave what we’ve made.
This is all we have left.




This is an inverse translation of Mary Ruefle's "Broken Spoke" and "Literal."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Ruefle's original poem follow the link here


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Inverse Translation #6 after Roger Reeves

Long After the Aftermath
an inverse translation after Roger Reeves

by Susan Calvillo

The volcano lives in June
for the last time and scatters air.
So few goslings with cheeks pressed
against their soft shells never see
the light of day, crackling,
jumping, folding and spitting.
The fire is molten lava.
There’s only time for one salutation.
Even if these rivers cease steaming
the coral will still cook.
My brother will draw closer to his heart
than we are to our own
sitting square center on a teeter totter
but in different chests with the false hope
of breaking free. Then for the first time after
a moon, for the first moon, my brother
breaks into a run, chasing a goose through the snow.




This is an inverse translation of Roger Reeves' "Before Diagnosis."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Reeves' original poem follow the link here

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Inverse Translation #5 after Cherry Pickman

For Giveaway
an inverse translation after Cherry Pickman

by Susan Calvillo

Diurnal deserts in the greenhouse. There isn’t a shadow
in there, stretching to the right, tasting red. Just an oasis
terrarium complete with miniature pool, an inferior mirage,

leveled on the road like the sky is falling. What can we do
without and still get a leg up? A hefty wad of gauze,
sunglasses, anglerfish, lamp shade, an eclipse

performing the Heimlich maneuver on the sun? The sundial sits
under a cloud again and I forget the year, for horror stories,
for crop circles versus a popcorn shortage, and now accidentally

we are free to go. So we get going. You are lost
in the bandana pulled up to your cheekbones, stones
weigh on the tongues of unnecessary dialogue, dry up

the bloody nose; we already figured out the ending.
Hindsight is the peal of spoons as the fray flies into
a tear, losing the kite string spool

to the lightning bolt. Can I get a little more sky in here,
one with less horizon, less vanishing point, and a vague width
we can rotate the sun into and out of? Such danger

in distance. Here we are, hem to hem, and still
willing to face any combination. Can’t you hear the fire
under the cacti in our greenhouse, the earth crumbling

off its own face, from outside to in? Backs to each other
we take ten steps further, all too aware of the inevitable draw
when mice wake to the excess of light and necessity turns to flood.




This is an inverse translation of Cherry Pickman's "From the Keep."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Pickman's original poem follow the link here


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Inverse Translation #4 after Amy King

Kite Facts
an inverse translation after Amy King

by Susan Calvillo

Give up. Unravel the sky’s flatline of chest falling
to peak into horizon. Then raise your toes ceiling-ways,
a hot coal walk, under air, out of solar depths.
Left there, away now. The lackluster of static refrains
playing close by from a magenta tombstone radio, Emerson 707.
It’s not your father after the signal.
Nor a school boy tinkering in pocket watches.
The roof tiles snap with burrowing vines we neglected
to rouse. We sit in the garden’s progression,
antimatter swarming—concrete memories chipping, escaping distinction.
Fish eggs strung from cirrocumulus clouds
our meteorologists unravel with wormholes, statements
freezing in the open air into knots. None of us are
the same bone, cloudy atoms in a perpendicular consciousness.
We depart from the beds behind us, our oratory box springs
out of tune with the organ, thoughts rolling in the appendix
of space, in hiding and unobserved.
Quills and cosmic disks, like broomsticks.
Steel plates in ceilings become frames for sanctuary,
mighty and public. We join like air with buttons
under tongues to pass through portals called doors.
They grimace when we leave with our hearts
to pick locks with quills, abandoning organs on the other side of the world.
The navel of the next horizon collects
its fleshy nakedness behind us. We are neither different
nor the living spirit of fish who know the silence of static better than we.




This is an inverse translation of Amy King's "String Theory."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For King's original poem follow the link here

Friday, January 17, 2014

Inverse Translation #3 after Roberto Bolaño


The Tadpole Outside the Tadpole the Words Outside the Words and the Anonymous Outside the Anonymous
an inverse translation after Roberto Bolaño

by Susan Calvillo

Don’t go telling me about absence, don’t tell me what you lack
when fish are found in green
and you’re staggering for some ground, your shirt
buttoned and ballooned and forehead beaded as if you’d just
delivered a child.
I don’t want to know the absence of that greeny meadow,
in that impulsive meadow, with toes wading
into the most pacific of blades
where unbound eyes all look the same.
Spooned river of naivety carried or driven by those who build
empires with blueprints of the water running
in reverse, pulsing back up the hills.
Just don’t, don’t tell me about absence. What color
settles in your stomach. What fisheyes are left on your plate.




This is an inverse translation of Roberto Bolaño's "A Fly Inside a Fly a Thought Inside a Thought and Mario Santiago Inside Mario Santiago."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Bolano's original poem follow the link here

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Inverse Translation #2 after Catherine Blauvelt


Furless Polar Bears in the Binocular
an inverse translation after Catherine Blauvelt

by Susan Calvillo

Don’t be dune.
  Don’t be echo.
    Radiate radio radiation stopper.
Plankton forge in food chain.

 Spit and bow limb.
Glazing over jargon.
  A forehead. A frustration. Lava flowers
there in the happy-go-lucky

corporate-owned evening news.

    Oceans teeter
totter through
gills.
Call it indigestion.
 When there are traces,
  Call them lips.

      You are all-knowing.
        You retroactive antediluvian.

The lovers stray

ordering an over-priced filet
with a dash of cesium, sweet
  Pacific
    belly-up,
     fog horns.

Each minute waves the coasts.




This is an inverse translation of Catherine Blauvelt's "One Hand in the Fig Basket."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Blauvelt's original poem follow the link here.

Inverse Translation #1 after Sasha Fletcher

when i wake up i wake up with the shadows tucked away
an inverse translation after Sasha Fletcher

by Susan Calvillo

Last night I closed my eyes to the sun and said
You are the black hole I will never live through.
I forget about shut-ins and takeout.
I forget about thievery and high numbers
I used to know better. I destroy eleven hundredths
of a banquet. I like to do my share.
I refuse to buy clothes. They are just a pool
of slowly expanding holes. I want the kind of fame
that keeps my profile out of it and a salary
that proves my dedication to art. I can’t believe
that there are people in this world
even after these skyscrapers and smokestacks
were dismantled too late and when they see fish on the water they think
this is all because of me. I don’t have free time but if I did
I’d glue books together and wear pages on the subway
where I won’t charge anyone to read me
night after night and when I open my mouth
the world stills and earthquakes sleep.





This is an inverse translation of Sasha Fletcher's “when i go to bed i go to bed with the lights on."
Never heard of the Inverse Translation Project? Read about it here.
For Fletcher's original poem follow the link here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Inverse Translation Project: top picks for 2013



Translation #4: Inverse by Boris Zakic

When a new year comes, we greet it by looking back. Everyone is posting their top picks for favorite books, best movies, and edgy music from 2013. Because everyone has different lists, these picks become the harsh reminder that I missed out on so much in 2013! But, of course the more I look back, the more I’ll miss out on what’s right in front of me. It’s time to look on to 2014.

I subscribe to many literary review email updates, one of which is Boston Review. Their new year header read “Poetry Matters: the 20 Top Poems of 2013” which you can read here. Okay, so it’s not an entirely accurate headline because they actually are posting the “most-read” poems on their website as opposed to giving it a vote. But either way there are some gems in here.

Even I get caught up looking back. But I’ve decided to also take these poems forward into 2014. I’m going to do what’s called an “inverse translation” on ten of these poems. This is an English-to-English rendering, where I write the opposite word, phrase, or sentiment of a poem to create something entirely different. I’m not doing this because I think I can improve upon these original poems. I do it to honor these poems. I rewrite poems because it means I get to work intimately with the work, which helps me better understand the authors’ intent, and also gives me the space to create something new. I invite anyone who wants to join in the fun to inverse translate these original poems, mistranslate my poems, or even pick your own top 5 and mistranslate those. I’d love to see how others interpret or purposely misinterpret them.

Check out the inverse translations of Boston Review’s Top 20 right here.