The Cold Tap Sings

the p-word

Category: Translations

WRIST

Untitled, Domingo Martínez, 2015

Untitled, Domingo Martínez, 2015

WRIST

today could be about the word ‘wrist’
wrist silent double-u silent whisper
the way the sound wrist echoes
risk is each wrist doubled
you ask have you ever
seen the dark turn
orange neon
purple or
wrists
or purple
neon orange
turn the dark seen
have you ever you ask
is each wrist doubled risk
the way the sound wrist echoes
silent whisper silent double-u wrist
could ‘wrist’ be about the word today

Translator’s Note

Here is an explanation of the process that brought about this poem. I wrote down my first impressions of the artwork (above) – orange neon, wrists – before sculpting them into a triangular form, with the second half a blurred reflection of the first. The poem became an arrow pointing toward the word ‘wrists’, just as the artwork is an arm pointing to an image. The artwork had been ‘translated’ into a poem.

RIMBAUD: THE BRIDGES

Camden Lock Basin, London. Photo: louisberk

Camden Lock Basin, London. Photo: louisberk

Here’s a translation of mine of ‘The Bridges’, one of Arthur Rimbaud’s late poems. Taken from his posthumous collection Illuminations, this prose poem was written in London, and I can’t help thinking that’s it’s set on the Regent’s Canal in Camden. Rimbaud lived there briefly with Paul Verlaine, his partner in poetry and crime.

***

The Bridges

by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robin Boothroyd

Grey crystal skies. A weird backdrop of bridges, some straight, some arched, others slanting down, or angled obliquely to the first, and these patterns reproduced in pools of light further along the canal, but all of them so long and slight that the banks, laden with domes, shrink and subside. Some bridges still foster hovels. Others support masts, signals, frail parapets. Minor chords intersect, dissolve. Ropes climb up from the banks. We make out a red coat, maybe some other costumes, and musical instruments. Are these popular tunes, fragments of stately recitals, remnants of public hymns? The water is grey and blue, wide as an arm of the sea. ––A ray of white light, falling from the top of the sky, obliterates this comedy.

***

You can read more of my Rimbaud translations here, and those from Illuminations here.

RIMBAUD: THE DRUNKEN BOAT

So here’s an idea: a comic book translation of a poem by the French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud. ‘The Drunken Boat’ is a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic journey across the seven seas as told by a boat whose crew was killed by “yelping redskins”. I’ve translated the poem and am looking for any artists/illustrators/graphic designers to collaborate with on an adaptation. I won’t post the full poem because I’m saving it for the finished book; nevertheless, as a taster, here are stanzas five to eight.

***

‘The Drunken Boat (Extract)’

by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robin Boothroyd

[…]

I swallowed green waters that were sweeter to the taste
Than tangy apples on children’s tongues. They cleansed
My pinewood hull of blue wine stains and vomit,
And scattered my rudder and anchor to the deep.

Thereafter I bathed in the Poem of the Sea,
An infusion of milky starlight devouring aquamarine.
Sometimes, like a delighted piece of pale flotsam,
A drowned man would pensively break the surface.

Down in the depths, beneath the quicksilver,
With a slow, delirious rhythm, bitter love
– Stronger than liquor, louder than lyres –
Ferments, and dyes the deep blues red!

I know skies fractured by lightning, and hurricanes
And undertows and currents; I know the night,
And dawns as rapturous as a flock of doves.
I have seen worlds which are for man dreamworlds.

[…]

***

Are you an artist/illustrator/graphic designer? Do you like the idea of this project and want to know more? Please get in touch. You can contact me via email by using the address listed here. Read more Rimbaud translations here.

RIMBAUD: ETERNITY

Happy New Year! To celebrate here’s a poem about time – or, more specifically, about eternity. It’s a translation, by yours truly, of a poem by Arthur Rimbaud. There are two known versions of ‘Eternity’ which differ slightly – this is my preferred version from A Season in Hell, the only collection of Rimbaud’s poems published in his lifetime.

***

‘Eternity’ 

by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robin Boothroyd 

Rediscovered!
What? Eternity.
It is the sunrise
Soldered to the sea.

O eternal soul,
Despite lonely night
And fiery day
Keep your vow.

Keep it to escape
The ballot box,
And buck the trend!
At your wish take wing…

No ‘Christ has risen’.
No hope––not ever.
Just science, patience
And certain suffering.

No more tomorrow,
Embers of silk,
Your duty is
Vim and vigour.

Rediscovered!
––What?––Eternity.
It is the sunrise
Soldered to the sea.

***

Perfection is an eternal dawn without hope or expectation. Click here for more Rimbaud translations.

RIMBAUD: TO A REASON

Here’s another translation I’ve done of a poem from Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations. It is significant that the title addresses “a” reason, as in “a particular version of reason”, as Rimbaud’s poetics were formed on the famous phrase “Je est un autre” (I is another self), in which he sought to divorce one “self” from another, as well as inventing different ones.

***

‘To a Reason’

by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Robin Boothroyd

A tap of your finger on the drum unleashes the sounds and weaves a new harmony.

At your footfalls new men sign up and march out.

Your head turns away: new love! Turns back––new love!

“Change our lots, flatten the scourge, start with time,” the children sing to you. “Raise the substance of our fortunes and our vows wherever possible,” they plead.

You step out of always. Now make for everywhere.

***

You can find some of my other translations from Rimbaud’s Illuminations here.