Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homolinguistic Translation: Walt Whitman, "World Below the Brine"

Hello, hello.

This is from week 2. The constraint being:

§ Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else's or your own) and translate/rewrite/revise it by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or "free" translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or do several versions of the "same" poem. Or: translate the poem into another, or several other, literary styles.

So, essentially what you're doing here is coming up with a different way to say the same thing. Here's my commentary at the time:

"Before I say anything else I should say that yesterday I went to the Camden's (very awesome) Adventure Aquarium. I love fish, oceans, swimming, and so on, so I was definitely inspired when I was writing this. I found the exercise a lot of fun to do. It was interesting to see how you could totally change a poem's words and yet preserve the meaning. I think I like my version better, but only because it's more descriptive and specific. Perhaps that speaks to a dichotomy that distinguishes between different types of writing: minimalist or heavily descriptive. Of course the two aren't mutually exclusive, nor is there no middle ground, but I find it's something that's come up when I'm trying to get at what makes things "better." There are times for minimalism, like when you want to leave the image up to the reader and supply the emotions instead, or if you want to give the reader as vivid a picture as you've created yourself so that they can "see" what you're talking about.  (Jan 30th, 2011)"

Well, I had no idea that Walt Whitman was so associated with Camden. I swear that is not why I picked the poem. I was completely clueless. The "Walt Whitman Bridge" to Philly went over my head. So of course we talked a lot about that in class. Was it an odd coincidence? Certainly. You don't have to, but I have to believe in spirituality and forces that set up fate. I picked it out from the Academy of American Poets' online site, which is extremely wonderful if you just want to spend some time browsing around. One of the best things is that they have all kinds of categories you can pick to find poems associated with the theme. Because I was fish inspired, I chose this one from Poems-Nature-Animals-Fish. For simple viewing, I colored every other line in my own poem a shade of blue.

Here it is:

World Below the Brine  

by Walt Whitman

The world below the brine;  
Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves,  
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds—
      the thick tangle, the openings, and the pink turf,  
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold—
      the play of light through the water,  
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks—coral, gluten, grass, rushes—
      and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or slowly crawling
      close to the bottom,  
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and spray, or disporting
      with his flukes,  
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard,
      and the sting-ray;  
Passions there—wars, pursuits, tribes—sight in those ocean-depths—
      breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do;  
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings
      like us, who walk this sphere;
The change onward from ours, to that of beings who walk other spheres.

There beneath the Waves
By Sarah Davis

A hustling, bustling city there beneath the waves;
Assorted Plantae at the lowest depths—Tall stems and their blooms—
                The heavy snag, the holes for air, and the salmon colored peat, Various shades, pastels: yellow and blue, orange, magenta, and lilac—                The light from above scatters, rays break the murky green, Ignorant bathers over by the jagged stones—seaweed, iodine, dead man’s fingers—                And the naïveté of those unsuspecting swimmers, Lazy lives feeding over there, dangling, or creeping ever so quietly                So, so, so close to the sandy ground, The leviathan surfacing, water like a geyser issuing from his head, or gesturing                With his leeching mollusks clinging to his body, The pewter colored eyes of the tiger shark, the manatee, the sea horse, the   seal,                 And the jelly fish; Such strong emotions there—battles, hunts, schools—a spectacle in those deep-sea waters—                Inhaling and exhaling that stifling oxygen, as nearly everyone does;The opposite to all that we can see up here, and to the barely noticeable zephyr that fuels creatures                Like us, who wade out into their land;
The metamorphosis that’s out of our hands, since it belongs to these mortals who walk other worlds.

Jellyfish at the Camden Aquarium

Shark Tank at the Camden Aquarium

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