Translating Translating Apollinaire:
A Preliminary Report




In the fall of 1977, bpNichol showed me some sections of Translating Translating Apollinaire, in part because we had discussed projects that both of us were working on that related to TTA 26. I proposed that we do two separate books, one of selections from TTA 26, and one for other parts of the work. It took us some time to work out what to use and how to reproduce it in print. The poems presented here are those that seem to make the transition to the web without problems.

During the time we were going through the manuscript, bp began asking people if they'd like to participate in TTA 29 (some had already participated in other sections, such as TTA 20). We intended this to be the first in a series of "reports," and bp included an invitation to participate in his introduction. We discussed a number of ways of including other participatory sections in further volumes, including the alter-and-pass-on and alter-and-return type familiar to people in the mailart network. We received several of the TTA 29 type before bp's death in 1988, and I have received several since then.

I doubt that many of bp's friends have fully come to terms with his absence, even after 8 years. I don't think I ever will. Perhaps cyberspace is precisely where the participatory sections should continue. Stay tuned.

Karl Young


May 27th 1975 en route from London England to Toronto with Gerry Gilbert (we'd both been at the 8th International Sound Poetry Festival) in a mood of dissatisfaction re certain aspects of my writing (always the feeling there is more one should be learning - more limitations one should be pushing against & breaking down) i began this present series. In my mind was the idea of a pure bit of research one in which the creativity would be entirely at the level of the research, of formal inventiveness, and not at the level of content per se i.e. i recalled the first poem i had ever had published -- Translating Apollnaire in Bill Bissett's BLEW OINTMENT magazine circa 1964 (i'd written the poem in summer 1963 during my first period in Toronto) - & decided to put that poem thru as many translation/ transformation processes as i & other people could think of. I conceived of it as an openended, probably unpublishable in its entirety, piece. As of this date (August 29, 1978) i have elaborated 55 different systems & or results with TTA 16, 26, 27, 29, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41, 50, 54, 55 & some other tentative ideas still not fully executed. But it seemed a good point in time, particularly when Karl Young expressed his enthusiasm & support, to issue a preliminary report on discoveries made in terms of the results arrived at. Thus this present selection from the inevitably titled TRANSLATING TRANSLATING APOLLINAIRE.

The pieces included here begin with the three memory translations written over the atlantic ocean on May 27th. TTA 4 is the original poem as published in 1964 & all the pieces that follow are based on TTA 4. The title of the original poem comes from the fact that i was, during its writing, translating Apollinaire & the line "soleil cou coupe" comes from his poem, ZONE, the one i was working on. TTA 31 (unpublished here) includes elements from my 1963 translation.

In choosing the pieces for this preliminary report we excluded all the unfinished ones except TTA 29. We excluded those that were overly long (TTA 20, 21, 22 & 52) as well as the systems that were in any case summarized in TTA 51. TTA 23, 24 & 25 depended for their understanding on a familiarity with unpublished essays from my PROBABLE SYSTEMS series, & TTA 34 upon a knowledge of my NEGATIVES series, & could not be included here without extensive notes that would've made the size of the book unwieldy.

Hence, roughly speaking, this preliminary report. Other reports will be issued from time to time over the years as pieces are finished &/or opportunities to publish them become available. I'd like to particularly thank the writers included in TTA 29 for contributing their research results & both the three writers included in TTA, & the 24 not included here, that participated in the tests that form the basis for TTA 20 & 21. Any writer who wishes to submit a version of TTA 4 for inclusion in TTA 29 is invited to do so & can reach me c/o Membrane Press.


TTA 1: memory translation (order of recall)

flat on'my back on the floor
becoming aware of it
                    for an instant

"soleil cou coupé" 
rolls thru my window

sun thru trees passing
a million new wave movies

driving thru the city

TTA 2: restructuring TTA 1 according to recalled order

driving thru the city

sun thru trees   passing
like a million new wave movies

"Soleil cou coupé"
rolls thru the window

flat on my back on the floor
becoming aware of it
                       for an instant

TTA 3: treating TTA 1 as the first draft of
a new poem & revising.

"soleil cou coupé"

flat on my back on the floor

aware of it
for an instant

TTA 4: original version

Icharrus	winging up
Simon the Magician      from Judea    high in a tree, 
everyone	reaching for the sun

                       great towers of stone 
built by the Aztecs, tearing their hearts out 
to offer them, wet and beating

cold wind, Macchu Piccu hiding in the sun 
unfound for centuries

cars whizzing by, sun 
thru trees passing, a dozen 
new wave films, flickering 
on drivers' glasses

flat on their backs in the grass
a dozen bodies slowly turning brown

sun glares off the pages, "soleil
cou coupé", rolls in my window 
flat on my back on the floor 
becoming aware of it 
for an instant

TTA 5: re-arranging words in poem in alphabetical order

a   a a,
an and aware   Aztecs back    backs beating becoming bodies,
brown   built  by  by  cars

          centuries cold cou coupé 
dozen dozen drivers' everyone, films flat flat flickering 
floor for for, for from glares
grass great, hearts hiding high Icharrus in in
in in instant

it Judea Macchu, Magician 
mountains my my, new of 
of off offer, on 
on on on

out pages passing Piccu reaching rolls Simon
slowly soleil stone sun sun sun

sun tearing the the the, "the 
the the", the their their them 
thru to towers tree trees turning unfound 
up wave wet whizzing 
wind window winging

TTA 7: re-arranging letters alphabetically

Aaaaaaaa     aaaaaaa    aa,
aaaaa aaa aaaaaabb     bbbb   bbbcc     cccc   cc  c  cccc,
ccccdddd     ddddddde eee eee ee

                 eeeee  eeeeee  ee  eeeee
eeeee  ee  eee  eeeeeé,   fffffff   fffff  ffffgg  ggg 
gg  ggggg  gggg,   ggh   hhh   hhhhhhh

iiii  iiii,  iiiiii   iiiii   iiiiii  ii  iii  iii 
iiiJkkk  lll  lllllllll

lllM Mmmmmmmm mn, nnn
nnnn nnnnn nnnnnnn, n nnnnn
nnn nnnn nnnnn, nnnnnooooo
oo ooooooo'   ooooooo

oooo oo ooooo ooPpp  pp rrr rrrrr
r rrrrr rrrrrr rrrrrr rrrrrSs sssss

sss ssssss sss sss sssss,   "sssstt 
ttt ttttt", ttttt tt tt tttttt 
tttt tt tu uuuu uu uuu uuuuu 
uuuvvvww wwwww ww ww 
wyy yy yyzzzzz

TTA 9: replacing words with words of same length
using Ferguson's STANDARD CORPUS

Idealism    waffles up,
Saber tab Macassar     face Jaded    hack if a tack.
eardrums   racially fad tag sad

                     gable tables of sable 
based be tan Abated, tableau table habits oak 
to oaken tact, wan ace babbled

cabs wade, Madden Paced hacked in tap sag 
unaided fan cacophony

cafe waggling by, sap 
tags taboo package, a daddy 
nab wads fable, fabricated 
oh dabbing gadgets

fact on tacit babes is tar gages
a daily babies sables tablets backs

sat gables odd tax pacer, "sacred 
cab cabin", rabid it ma wadded 
fade or me babe ox tea faced 
babyhood aback of if 
far an ideally

TTA 10: replacing words with synonyms

Daedalus    air-planing upward,
Simon the Mage    out of Judea     aloft within a timber,
everybody	extending to the orb of day

                 grand turrets of rock 
made by the Aztecs, rending their vitals forth 
to proffer them, moist and pulsating

chill draft, Macchu Piccu concealed by the daystar
not a sign of it for ages

automobiles zipping by, the lamp of day 
penetrating shade trees travelling, twelve 
young vibration motion pictures, fluttering 
on operators' spectacles

recumbent on their dorsums on the lawn
boxcars figures gradually changing tan

the glorious lamp of heaven blares off the folio, "soleil 
cou coop", travels through my casement 
prostrate on my tergum on the deck 
getting to be cognizant of it 
for a moment

TTA 11: re-arranging TTA 4 according to word length

a   a a,
an by by    in in   in in it my,
my   of of on on

                 on on to up 
and cou for for, for new off out 
sun sun sun, sun the the

the the, the the wet back cars cold
flat flat from

high them thru, tree 
wave wind aware, backs brown 
built coupé dozen, dozen 
films floor grass

great Judea offer pages Piccu rolls Simon
stone their their trees Aztecs bodies

glares hearts hiding Macchu slowly, "soleil 
towers window", beating drivers, glasses instant 
passing tearing turning unfound winging becoming everyone 
Icharrus Magician reaching whizzing 
centuries mountains flickering

TTA 12: re-arranging letters in each word alphabetically

achIrrsu   ggiinnw pu,
imnoS eht aacgiiMn    fmor adeJu     ghhi in a eert,
eeenorvy   aceghinr for eht nsu

                   aegrt eortsw fo enost 
biltu by eht Acestz, aeginrt ehirt aehrst otu 
ot effor ehmt, etw adn abegint

cdlo dinw, acchMu cciPu dghiin in eht nsu 
dfnnouu for ceeinrstu

acrs ghiinwzz by, nsu 
hrtu eerst aginpss, a denoz 
enw aevw films, cefgiiklnr 
no deirrsv' aeglsss

aflt no ehirt abcks in eht agrss
a denoz bdeios lloswy ginnrtu bnorw

nsu aeglrs ffo eht aegps, "eillos
cou céopu", llors in my dinoww 
aflt no my abck no eht floor 
bcegimno aaerw fo it 
for an ainnstt

TTA 13: sound translation

hick or ass    wan king cup,
Samantha my chess yen    front chew deo   hyena tory,
heavy Juan   Gris chin guffaw earth son

                         Greta hours office tone 
bill to buy Thea's texts, terrier hard stout 
two hover then, whet tongue bee sting

                          mound stains, 
coal do in, my cool prick you high din Gunther's hum 
infant fur scent you trees

coarse wheeze imbibes, un- 
true trespassing, adders in 
hue weave fill hums, full lick her ring 
under arrive hearse skull asses

fool Aton the heir buxom digress
add ozone bodice slow lead earning brow and

sunk lair soft deep ages, "soil hay 

coo coop hey", roil sin mi win dough 
Phaedon may balk honda four 
beacon Inca wary fit 
foreign instinct

TTA 17: acrostic translation

i cannot hear anymore

reason remains unreachable      sullen

would i never gave in, never gave up, praying,
simply, in my own name
to Him
each morning at

i cannot invoke another name

fear rises
open mouthed

Jesu! understand,
deafness erases any hope i gained,
'here' is nowhere around

the remaining essential emotions, 
essential values, everything, really, 
your own nullity exchanged, 
rise eastward against crosses hammered in new ground, 
for our rage,
            the hate every son uncovers.

new grief rends each awareness, 
the tautologies open wide, 
eager reason surprising our false sympathies, 
taunts our numbed eardrums, 
bullies us

i lie, terrified, by your thorned head 
effecting a zone that evil cannot slip thru 
entering a region
no grace that'll hold
       i rise
as Rafael told someone
"ordinary usage teaches them only one fact - FEAR EATS REASON"

to hear everything! 
my waiting eardrums tremble anew, 
nameless delicate breath explodes, 
a terrible inspiration now grips me
             (no truly available ideas (no substance))

could ordinary language display wisdom?
                                       ideation, naming,
demands man's actual control.
can he understand pure ideology's cryptic contortions, 
usurp Heraclitus's instinctual description, 
invent new gnostic inversions, new thots (hopefully), 
extending such unconscious nuances, unwritten novelties, forward - 
outside us? not deaf forever or 
(reacting, collecting examples, new theories) 
utter reasonable idiocies?

examples:     "some careful arguments reveal sympathies" 
                 "words hide in zygal zeugmas"

i name gracefully but.....
yet something's understood!

new thots, half reasoned utterances,
trace real expressions -
Eliot seems passe among such surrealist instances.

nova groupings, a dozen obscure zones explode, 
no nouns escape warping,
                        word avenues, vague, emerge, 
focus, i learn much, seek further luminations, 
i can't know everything

reeling, i now grasp onto nouns, 
deleted references,
                       investigate verbs, 
explore radical syntaxes,
                               glad, laughing, 
all signifiers signified, everything seems, 
finally, language, a theory of nominal tactics, 
Heraclitian expressiveness is renewed, 
but a carnal knowledge scissors it neatly, 
the head explodes,
glittering reason's airy scent seduces a dozen Ovids.

zero entropy

no braincells operative 

didn't i expect such scorn?

language opens worlds, 
little yields to unwilling readers, 
nothing is narcissistically gained.

but reader or writer
no simple unlocking gambit lets another reality exist 
sometimes our false fears terrorize 
hinder even partial acknowledgement
given equal substance some other language emerges 
                 like chaos or unity can 
opens up peripheral elements 
reveals our love
such inconsistencies nag

maybe you wander in narrow deserted offices 
wishing for love, anxious, too overcome, 
numbed, maybe you become aware, 
concerned, know other names things have, 
elemental formulas, linguistic options or 
rehearse banal explanations, 
concealing or masking intense need - grief.

a writer                           a reader
extremes of function in the full operation

reality's a noun
it's not simply the awareness nothing's there.


from TTA 18: 10 views: view 1: walking east along the
northern boundary looking south

       ISe   bt  cu ctno fa scfbf
       civ   uo  on ahen I  uoleo
       hme   i   lf rrw  ad nuacr
       aor   lo  do su d to   to
       rny   tf   u   wr  z gc ma
       r o    f  wn wtai oe looin
       utn   be  id hrvv mm aunn
       she   yr  n  ieee    rp gi
        e        df ze r tb eém n
             tt  ,o zsfs ho s"yas
        M    hh   r i i' ed  , wt
       war   ee  M  npl  ii o baa
       ige    m  ac gamg re frarn
       nia   A,  ce  ssl  s focet
       gcc   z   cn bs,a b   lk
       iih   tw  ht yi s as tl o
       nai   ee  uu ,nfs cl hsof
       gnn   ct   r  gle ko e n
         g   s   Pi s,is sw  i i
       u     ,a  ie u c   l pntt
       p f    n  cs nak  iy a h
       ,fo  gtd mc    e  n  gme
        rr  re  ou   dr   t ey
        o   eab u  oi    tu s f
        mt  are nh zn    hr ,wl
         h  tia ti eg    en  io
        Je   nt ad n      i "no
        u   tgi ii       gn sdr
        ds  o n nn       rg oo
        eu  wtg sg       a  lw
        an  eh  ,        sb e
            re   i       sr i
            si   n        o l
             r            w
       h    o    t        n
       i    fh   h
       g     e   e
       h    sa
            tr   s
       i    ot   u
       n    ns   n
       a     o
       t     t

from TTA 18: 10 views: view 5: walking west along the
southern boundary looking north

                          t   t
                          o   a
                      n   sn  n
                      u   to  i
                      s   rt 
                          as  h
                      e   e   g
                      h   hf  i
             n        t    o  h
             w            r  
             o        n   is 
           l rs       i   er 
           i bs        ,  he na
           e  a       gs gtw ue
          oo gr       nn n o sd
         rds ng       ii igt  u
         on" i    n   da tn  eJ
         oi  ne  ge   it ait h
         lw, rh  nz   hn era tm 
         f s ut  io    u bae  o
          ye t   rd   uo  er rr
         emg  n  e    cm dtg of,
         h a yi  kan sc  n   f p 
        ttnp l   c u ei  a,   .u
        i i  ws si,s iP   s  g
         n e ok elg  r   tc  nng
        fosh lc sfn, uu  ee  ian
        o lt sa s iy th  wt  hii
         kl   b a,sb nc   z  ccg
       tecof s  lss  ec  ,A  ain
       nrarf er gmag ca  m   egi
       aab o ii  lpn  M  ee  raw
       tw ,  de 'i i r   hh   M
       say"s oh sfsz o,  tt 
       n mée bt r ez fd       e
       ig pr    eeei  n  ry  ehs
        nnua nn vvrh di  eb  ntu
       niool eo iatw nw  f   o r
       am cg z  rw   u   ft  ynr
        ot   ot d us od  ol  roa
       rcaun da  wrr fl   i  emh
       oelou  l neha no  ou  vic
       fbfcs af ontc uc  tb  eSI

from TTA 18: 10 views: view 6: walking north along the
eastern boundary looking west

                                     tnatsni na rof
                               ti fo erawa gnimoceb
                       roolf eht no kcab ym no talf
                     wodniw ym ni sllor ,"èpuoc uoc
                  lielos" ,segap eht ffo seralg nus
                nworb gninrut ylwols seidob nezod a
                   ssarg eht ni skcab rieht no talf

                                sessalg 'srevird no
                         gnirekcilf ,smlif evaw wen
                        nezod a ,gnissap seert urht
                              nus ,yb gnizzihw srac

                              seirutnec rof dnuofnu
          nus eht ni gnidih ucciP uhccaM ,dniw dloc
                     gnitaeb dna tew ,meht reffo ot
      tuo straeh rieht gniraet ,scetzA eht yb tliub
         enots fo srewot taerg
                    nus eht rof gnihcaer   enoyreve
 .eert a ni hgih    aeduJ morf   naicigaM eht nomiS
                             ,pu gnigniw   surrahcI

from TTA 18" 10 views: view 9: labyrinthine view
beginning in the interior & walking out

    ezo        n gnird   u hidi            e    c
mountainn                 kan sc           sg
   arg eht ni   c u ei  and beating  ,        sb
gninrut ylws si,s ip   s, tearing the   i       s
r               ok elg  r   tc    great towersi
 n        o lielos" ,segap eh lc sfn, uu  ee
               r            w      wodniw ym ni s
lt sa s iy th  wt  hing for the sun     o   t
     n          roolf eht no kl   b a,sb nc  z
ccian   from Judea   hi  fh   h
           ti fo ecof s  lss  ec  ,A  aingin up,
               g   e   e
       as  h     tr   s
  u   to  i  n  ns   n
      e     a   o
    u      t   t
       r  e
      e , 
                tnrarf er gmag ca  m   egiwar  e
e  m  npl  ii  baatw ,  de 'i i r   hh   M
tt  ,o zsfs ho s"yasn mée bt r ez fd      e she 
 yr  n  ieee    rp gi nnua nn vvrh di eb  ntur o
   f  wn wtai oe looinam cg z  rw   u  ft  ynrao
r  lo  do su d to   to rcaun da  wrr fl  i  emhc
iv  uo  on ahen l  uoleofbfcs af ontc uc tb  eSI

from TTA 18: 10 views: view 10: labyrinthine view
beginning on the exterior & walking in

ISe  bt  cu ctno fa scfbfoelou  l neha no  ou  vi
chme  i   lf rrw  ad nuacr ot   ot d us od  ol  r
oarny  tf   u   wr  z gc maniool eo iatw nw  f
o rutn  be  id hrvv nn aunn ig pr    eeei  n  ry
 ehs e       df ze r tb eém nsay"s oh sfsz o,  tt
      M   hh   r i i' ed  , wtaab o ii  lpn  m  e
e  rawige   m  ac gamg re frarnt
                                         , e
                                       e  r
                                  t   t       u
                                 o   a      e
                            n   sn  n  i  ot    u
                           s   rt    h   sa
                          e   e   g
,pu gnignia  A,  ce  ssl   s foce of it 
                 h   hf   ih   aeduJ morf   naicc
  z  cn bs,a b   lk on the floor           n
   t   o     nus eht rof gnih  tw   ht yi s as tl
s in my window     w            r
     ee  uu ,nfs cl he pages, "soleil o        n
  isrewot taerg    ct   r  gle ko               r
s       i   eht gniraet ,s   pi s,is swly turning
 bs        ,  gnitaeb dna  ie u c   in the gra
     gs          cs nak                 nniatnuom
c     e           idih u   dring n        oze

TTA 19: replacing words with their meanings using

Icharrus furnished with wings, enabling him to fly or hasten (wounded 
in the wing, arm or shoulder) to or toward a higher place or degree; 
Simon the one skilled in magic (a conjurer), out of Judea, elevated far 
up indicating a present relation to time, space, condition, the 
indefinite article, meaning one perennial plant having trunk, bole, or 
woody stem with branches; all possible people stretching out their 
hands, straining after a conception, or to denote a particular person 
or luminous body round which earth and the other planets revolve.

Large in size or number, long in time or duration, lofty, round or 
square structures proceeding from hard, earthy matter of which rock is 
made, the act or work of building them exercised through the agency of 
the Aztecs, pulling apart forcibly the possessive case of them, the 
hollow, muscular organs which make the blood circulate, on, at, or to, 
the outside, expressing motion towards, expressing purpose, to present 
for acceptance or refusal the objective & dative case of they (Old 
English thaem), full of moisture, together with a word that joins words, 
throbbing, dashing against (as waves, wind, etc.).

High hills, wanting in heat, deficient in emotions, air in motion, the 
power of respiration, Macchu Piccu lying concealed in the sun, 
undiscovered during many periods of a hundred years.

Vehicles on wheels making a hissing sound, as of an arrow flying thru 
air, in the neighbourhood of the sun going in at one side & out the other 
of the trees, dying, a group of twelve things of the same kind, not 
existing before, surges, movie show burning unsteadily, above & touching 
one who (or that which) drives, his spectacles.

Prone on the upper or hinder part of their trunks in the herbage a dozen 
frames of human beings or animals at reduced speed convert into a darker 
colour inclining to red or yellow.

Sun shines with a strong dazzling light away from the one side of a leaf 
of a book or manuscript, a line from Guillaume Apollinaire's Zone, 
drives forward with a swift & easy motion, turning over & over in an 
opening in the wall to admit air & light which belongs to me, usually 
covered with glass, flat on my back on the horizontal surface of the 
room upon which one walks, passing from one state to another, possessing 
knowledge of the neuter pronoun of the third person for a particular point 
of time.


TTA 49: replacing words with their antonyms using

Icharrus     falling down,
Simon the Magician    not from Judea    crouched under a tree,
nobody     reaching for the sun

                  minute wallows of stone 
demolished by the Aztecs, mending their hearts in 
to solicit them, dry and dormant

not calm, Macchu Piccu revealed in the sun 
found for centuries

cars creeping by, sun 
thru trees not passing, a dozen 
old wave films, fixed 
on drivers' glasses

elevated on their fronts in the grass 
a dozen bodies swiftly remaining white

sun darkens off the pages, "soleil 
cou coupé", stationary in my window 
elevated on my front on the floor 
becoming unaware of it 
for an instant

Copyright © 1979 by bpNichol, and used by permission of Eleanor Nichol.

from Translating Translating Appolinaire: A Preliminary Report, 1979, Membrane Press.

Return to Light and Dust Poets.

Light and Dust @ Grist Mobile Anthology of Poetry