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Gateway

January 22, 2012

Desolate farmland.
Moonlight off the edge of the water.
Welcome to the gateway.
Strangers in gloves,
barefoot on a bed of flowers.
The sword of Aurora,
at the bottom of a paper cup.
We in black ash,
his eyes, their country.
Fall into the valley,
wake up in the air.
Your language shall melt diamonds,
the cherry trees a dream.
You always sing of the richness of the river.

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I’ve toyed around with translation software and the homophonic translations  the Oulipo people have written about and never felt  satisfied with my results. I thought I’d give it another shot, thinking that perhaps I didn’t work with these techniques long enough to develop any facility with them. Anyway, this is a poem called Halcion run through Google translation  multiple times, and translated back to English after every translation. I saved the English translations and used what I wanted from them. I stripped out what I didn’t want, and changed the order of lines and phrases but didn’t add anything.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2012 3:43 pm

    If the subject of Halcion didn’t survive their procedure, this is probably what they’d experience. The mood here is similar to Halcion: haiku-like appreciation of objects with the hint that something else is happening. In Halcion the something else is made specific, but here it remains vague and slightly threatening, but not worth getting too upset about. I’m guessing this comes from the authoring process’ retaining the same syntactical patterns, but removing the word semantics. When the intentionally authored meaning of a longer poem breaks down, it’s like the acceptance of death.

    But maybe I’m focusing too much on authoring process… I guess that’s just my area of interest…

  2. January 22, 2012 4:32 pm

    According to my template test, and my ear, this poem sounds good. Very surrealist in feel, it’s difficult to get a sense of orientation in the poem. Instead it sets a feel. Perhaps contrasting the surreal with the mundane (in another poem – I think this one is good) can produce some interesting effects.

  3. January 24, 2012 9:02 am

    Thanks for the input. Certain poems or seed texts appear to work well with certain techniques, and other ones don’t. It would be nice if I could tell ahead of time which was which but I haven’t figured it out yet. The Ouilipo people talk about how certain poems are resistant to being deformed or manipulated, as if they actively prevent you from working with them, which I think is a neat theory. Anyway, I will try this again at least a few more times and see how things go.

  4. January 31, 2012 6:11 am

    Certain poems or seed texts appear to work well with certain techniques, and other ones don’t. It would be nice if I could tell ahead of time which was which but I haven’t figured it out yet.

    Let us know as you develop any thoughts about it; a couple of us were thinking of writing an article roughly on this topic, focusing on the generators we develop.

    The Ouilipo people talk about how certain poems are resistant to being deformed or manipulated, as if they actively prevent you from working with them, which I think is a neat theory.

    Awesome, where do they talk about this? I’ve read through the Oulipo Compendium a couple times, but have a hard time finding the good stuff in the “Primer of Potential Literature.”

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