|OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #1 Results|
Whenever I did this prompt with a writing class, there were always a few who either found the task "too easy" or "too hard." "Too easy" usually meant "I can see words there, all I have to do is fill in the blanks," while "too hard" usually meant "I can't resist the need to know what it really means ... this feels wrong." To both of these groups, I'd offer an extension of the challenge, and I'll offer it to you now: pick a language that looks absolutely unfamiliar. These will usually be pictographic/hieroglyphic languages, or languages from the Middle Eastern and/or Asian regions. (In one case I gave a student my copy of The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were presented on little parchment pages that were rolled up and stored in a clay vase; her results were stunning.) When all you have is what looks, to your eyes, like "scribbles," you're not so much focused on "translating" as you are what I call "Rorschaching" -- the question is less "what does it mean" than "what do you see." Try this over the weekend to keep your brain working in the jungle zone! (Your texts don't even have to be poems: find an online foreign-language newspaper, or grab a copy of the Torah or Koran, or hit up a local museum with an ancient cultures exhibit, or check out some local cave drawings, or head into the city and "translate" all the graffiti you can find ...)
There are two featured poems this week! The first comes from J.lynn Sheridan, who found some stunning words to put to a poem by Yao Feng:
We built our home to comfort our little birds.
A trellis of poems to drink with our tea
Bread rises in the oven A pond awaits your
warm limbs Sunfish to nibble your toes.
Hum sweet child when I wake you in the early hours
One delight after another is just outside your window
Take your sisters to the market Buy a silk cloth
Joy is waiting for you My little bird.
The second featured poem is courtesy of Debi Swim, who shared two versions of translation attempts. Here's the first version (I love the second, too, but follow me here):
Traces of potent promises
Seeds of champing possibility
You pretend it doesn’t matter?
You say now it’s too late?
I extend my hand, my heart
Meet me halfway, take a chance.
The first version got my special notice especially because of the reminder it gives us about some of our hesitations with poetry. Remember: when it feels like you're doing it wrong, but you do it anyway, that's when you really stumble upon something. That's when there's something trying to come out that something else wants to doubt; let it out anyway! See what can come of it.
Stay tuned for the second challenge next Monday, and thank you all for sharing your works and mind-wanderings! Keep translating, get loose, get lost ... and happy writing!
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Join in the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!