Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yesterday at Powell's

Yesterday at Powell's I was determined to buy either, Berrigan's collected softcover, or Blaser's The Fire colleced essays. Instead I found Also, With My throat, I Shall Swallow Ten Thousand Swords: Araki Yasusada's Letters In English. COMBO Books, 2oo5. And so while I know I'm a little late on reading this one, having not yet read Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada either, I do know some of the history of controversy, authorship etc. Regardless of all that, I rarely devour a book this ravenously. From the outset as a controversial project that troubles many normative assumptions related to authorship/translation/ethics I must put it in a category of Rogue Translations that are for me most important to modern poetics. In this perspective I see the work of Zukofsky, Berrigan, Cage, Howe, Bhanu Kapil, Brandon Brown, Michael Koshkin, Rosemary and Keith Waldrop, (please leave comments as to whom else I need to be reading!!!???). And now I must include Kent Johnson into this realm. What is most powerful to me in all of these writers is the gesture of moving away from a monologic perspective on poetics and knowledge, and doing this at the outset, through Rogue translation (to be defined more thoroughly in the future), removes specific authorship (and its presumed legitimacy to some) and places it in relationships. And these relationships exist between eras, individuals, modes of thinking, fluidly, they force encounters with others, past and present, in order to create a knowledge or a poetry of relation, always only made relevant through the participation of a reader. Anyways, the point of this ramble is that it is an astounding read, only compounded by its controversial genesis.


Kent Johnson said...

Dear Hayes,

Someone pointed me to this post. I found your comments very interesting. I agree with your point (I've also written some on this, myself) that departures from normative forms of authorship can bring forth new imaginative and generic "relations," as you put it, and in various, often unpredictable ways. So thanks for the kind words on the book. I've also passed them on to Javier Alvarez. And since you haven't yet seen Doubled Flowering, why don't you send me your address and I will happily mail you a copy.



John Sakkis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Sakkis said...


thought you might be interested in Brandon Brown's essay on the Rogue Translator/tion originally published in Bombay Gin 32

Rogues In The Tent: Remarks on the Scene of Translation

“The condition of translation is not only ancillary; it is, in the eyes of the public as well as in the eyes of the translators themselves, suspect. After so many successful accomplishments, masterpieces, the overcoming of so many alleged impossibilities, how could the Italian adage traduttore traditore still remain in place as the last judgment on translation? And yet, it is true that in this domain, fidelity and treason are incessantly at issue. Translating, as Franz Rosenweig wrote, “is to serve two masters;” this is the ancillary metaphor. The work, the author, the foreign language (first master) have to be served, as well as the public and one’s own language (second master). Here emerges what may be called the drama of the translator.”

Antoine Berman, The Experience of the Foreign

So Donald Revell is in the Poetry Center and I'm there. He's very nice, and compliments my trousers, and laughs a lot. Somehow in the course of our about five minute conversation, we start talking about the classics and translation of the classics, and he takes a moment to laud David Slavitt, he says, "he's one of those rogue translators."
As much as David Slavitt's work, and the work of other "rogue" translators, continually fails to resonate for me, I do wonder about that term "rogue."
A Google search for "rogue translators" yields very little, and even the prompt, "did you mean rogue translation?" doesn't offer a lot. But basically the term finds its most proliferative applications within the field of translating the classics. The rogue translator is the translator of the classics who makes the alarming, for classicists, decision to render Greek and Latin (sometimes they allow for Sanskrit to be a "classical language") into, well, they usually say "vibrant American idiom" or something like that, but I'd describe it as a rendering into a very safe, domesticated, maybe sort of high American modernist English 99% of the time.
This is obvious, but can be demonstrated using their own method. What commentators inside the field, such as Peter Burian in his recent "Translation, the Profession, and the Poets" do is cite two translations of the same text, and the comment on them. They select two translations, one of them usually by Richmond Lattimore, and the other by somebody since. They go on to praise both translations in that manner many have perfected of praise dipped in a glaze of skepticism. But they usually will say, as Burian does, that Lattimore's translation more or less reflects the prosody of Greek and the other translation (Slavitt's will work) more or less reflects the prosody of American poetry, as they frightfully underunderstand that term. By way of contrast, imagine this comparison:
“Here's how Walter James Miller renders the opening of Homer's Iliad,

"Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, Agammemnon king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another."

and here is David Melnick's

"Men in Aida, they appeal, eh? A day, O Achilles!
Allow men in, emery Acahaians. All gay ethic, eh?
Paul asked if tea mousse suck, as Aida, pro, yaps in.
Here on a Tuesday. 'Hello,' Rhea to cake Eunice in.
'Hojo' noisy tap as hideous debt to lay at a bully.
Ex you, day. Tap wrote a 'D,' a stay. Tenor is Sunday.
Atreides stain axe and Ron and ideas 'll kill you."

You can see by this absurd example, I think, that at a certain point this sort of discussion, comparison say, of translations breaks down. I meant to say, translations. Not translation, but a discussion or comparison always of extant texts, examples of translation.


The drama of the translator, that is, the drama translation is, takes place. As it’s drama, let’s think of the place in which the drama takes place as the scene. I mean scene both in its common meaning and its origin, the Greek skeine, i.e. a tent. A tent in which an event, say a drama, takes place. Imagining the scene as a tent lends the scene a locationality which the common meaning of “scene” might not convey. The drama takes place within a definite place. Define, locate the place. Try and define, locate the place.
The tent in which the translation takes place, i.e. the body of the translator, is a figuration of the horizon. Its exterior conceals both the constituent parts of its interior, as well as the goings-on in its interior. Does it look like a very simple, or humble tent?
This is a drama with a definite result.
The result of the drama translation is is that a translation is produced. That is, a text appears, or rather proceeds from a text which had appeared previously, moreoever preceeds the text which has proceeded from it. That is, a metaphor has been made. Metaphor is the Greek way of saying translation. But in all of these miraculous conversions, the element which is always overlooked as integral is the body of the translator itself. I call this body the scene of translation, in other words the tent. It is upon this scene, of course, that the drama takes place, whatever the drama is.

“This is not appropriation but incorporation, the bloody struggle. Not avoidance. Entrapment, perjury. Ultimately cannibalism.”

(Norma Cole, Nines and Tens:A Talk on Translation)

How are we to visualize the drama taking place upon the scene, or in other words, inside the tent. To oversimplify the situation, there is a sort of entrance, a sort of exodus—in between them there’s translation. A transaction. An action defined by its being involving a trans.
Poets have considered to engage translation at the limits. This translation practice desires to, instead, find and privilege the very center of translation—the complex middle term—i.e. the tent—the viscerality of the translator—the very scene upon which a sort of “drama of translation” might emerge.
That is, the complex middle term, since translation is always a trivial act. It is indeed supposed to be trivial, in the common sense of “ancillary.” But in fact it’s trivial in the literal sense—an act of translation is constituted of (at least) three parts. That is, a text or writing which precedes a text or writing which proceeds—the result of the drama—the drama enacted on the scene of translation—in the scene of translation—that is, the translator.
The drama Berman describes is one drama, not the drama. That drama is the one in which a translator consciously considers the effects of her practice as they influence either the preceeding writing (really a complex of sociopolitical, totally historical, bodily, fabricated substance), the proceeding writing (really a complex of sociopolitical, totally historical, bodily, fabricated substance), or both. But never the effect of translation, that is, lational labor (constituted of, at least, a sort of reading, a sort of delay, and a sort of writing) on her own body, and how the fact of it being her body which ultimately produces the proceeding writing known as “a translation” affects not only the abstract entity “her language” but also her sister and fellow citizens, her culture, and what is synonymous, the poetics of his culture.
That is, Berman’s drama, while not yet considered by translators to its important full extent in a fundamental way—why Donald Revell can say “rogue translators”—is merely the standard drama. Vacillation of loyalty, shiftiness—the qualities which assist the Italian adage traduttore traditore in its tropic hegemony.
Imagine a translation practice that attempts to enact real roguery—that is, simultaneous idleness and vagrancy. And as that practice embraces wandering, that is, errancy, so the translation will occur as a result of a self-errantizing-scrutiny. The preceeding text will stray within the tent, the scene of translation, that unmoving place which is absolutely transformative; and the translator, while her sceneness keeps her to some extent an id, i.e. idle, will stray in her culture, language, etc. This sort of straying, wandering, idle vagrancy will be called “translation,” not “mistranslation.”
Norma Cole gave a talk in the summer of 2005 she called “Why I Am Not A Translator.” Partly these notes are a letter to Norma Cole. Norma is “not a translator” on the very account, or this is my understanding of it, that in the West the translator’s invisibility is the, and the only, degree zero of the meaning of “translation.” That is, the given invisibility determines the standard drama. Norma’s translation practice foregrounds that complex middle term, the body of the translator, in that her translations are informed, are conscious of the reading body which is to translate, the shift of focus from replication or repetition to iterating a writing. A writing that proceeds from writing that preceeds, i.e. actual translation. These notes are made in the baffling hope that the narrowing tendency of the term “translator” can be reversed, so that—Dear Norma,--so that this practice is also known as translation.
That is, if it can be reversed, it can be done by poets. Remember, though, that of all the many referred to “rogue translations” of, say, the Classics, a work like Celia and Louis Zukofskys’ Catullus or A-21, or David Melnick’s Men In Aida, is not meant. Those works, actually rogue, privilege the scene of translation to the extent that readers of translations in the West are rendered, mostly, speechless. Or they can make speech like, “The hun is once again at play among the ruins.” As if the Zukofskys’ work was play. Consider the translations of Holderlin—conceived of at the time as the ravings of a madman. These are two of the greatest advances of the possibilities of translation, and I mean poetry, our (Western) culture has witnessed. Yet not considered even rogue. Yet these are unsafe works, arresting—fearful—they are inextricable from their scenes.


Yeah, this is an avant-garde practice.
Which complicates the matter when poets, conversely, only settle for the standard, if that, drama of translation. If they refuse to establish themselves as the very scenes of translation. This is all the more disappointing when a poet who generally maintains an avant-garde practice separates her practice in poetry from his practice in translation. As if, in poetic practice signifiers could overflow their signifieds, but in translation there remained a practice of utter mimesis, or repetition.
Instead, imagine that the body of the translator will be the state in which vagrancy is made possible.
That is, the translation will treat neither the texts which become translated into preceeding-writings as superficial or symptomatic, reducable to holistic quanta of meaning, nor the visceral presence of the translator as a superficial or symptomatic, mimetic machine. Not a simple tent.
“The bloody struggle.”
The way encountering rogues in the woods, above and beyond the superficiality of its fearfulness as encounter, forever alters the action of an itinerary. In the woods.

Hayes said...

John, you believe me, that BB essay is and has been a lot of the inspiration behind my thinking...and indeed credit where credit is due, I heard of Rogue Translation in that very essay....oh, and am trying to write my own little essay onBB's transmission book, bhanu' water damage, and maybe now this "Also with my throat"...thanks for the comment! And I guess pretty son i should let BB know I'm using his essay and book eh!!

Hayes said...

son should read soon, of course

Hayes said...

How do I get yr Addy Kent?...Here's mine and i'll see if i can get it elsewhere.

Jared Hayes
2475 nw raleigh st. #4
Portland, Or 97210

I much appreciated yr comments and am exstatic (sp?) about the possibility of recieving Doubled Flowering!!!

I am sincere.
Jared Hayes

John Sakkis said...

shoot, i thought you were being all hip hop son...

Kent Johnson said...


I don't see your email anywhere here, so giving you address here:

Kent Johnson
1147 W. Lincoln Blvd.
Freeport, IL 61032

On my way to Sarajevo(!) for ten days, or so, but will send copy of DF on return.



jcooper said...

kent...my name is joseph cooper...a recent blazevox lover...would love to talk and share...my email is jcooper31@gmail.com