Homolinguisitic translation – Slow Dance

Slow Dance, by Matthew Dickman, is one of my favorite poems. There are elements to it that have always struck me as particularly beautiful or painfully poignant. Even in the original, I feel that some of these lines are created for their sound, rather than any literal meaning. I originally intended to translate this into French by myself, but saw that there were options for Esperanto in online translators and found that to be a more interesting alternative.

Esperanto is language that was constructed in the late 19th century. The language was intended to be neutral, existing without a history of political or social dominance. Today, Esperanto speakers are relatively few, but hail from different countries around the world. As a language, it has been praised for its clarity and ease of learning.

In my translation, I changed the poem into Esperanto and then put it into Microsoft Word. From there, I removed any words that were highlighted by the automatic spelling and grammar checker. I then put what remained back into the translator, going from Esperanto to English. While the poem seemed to be reduced to such an extent that it made little sense, I believe that the act of translating to Esperanto helped to make the poem more succinct while preserving much of the original sentimentality. For reference, I have put the final English poem first, followed by the redacted Esperanto poem. The original poem can be found here.

Slow Dance

we have the

between the
from the we love
if one of us
of the. two
your head

you in the
your The Unchained
Stairway to Heaven, life
I have already

the non-
As in the
of the of.
Two in the I him,
out, he
he turns to me
I am on the we
I know one of us
the I slept
in the
in the

I will. I have loved you. I
the the leading
me over – sexed suddenly to life,
I am in the. I
in the
in the
for the The

Malrapida Danco

la ,
Ni la

inter la la
de la la ni amas
se el ni
el la. du
Via kapo
vi en la
al via La Unchained
Stairway to Heaven , vivo
Mi jam

La ne
Kiel en la
de La de.
Du en la de la mi li,
el, li
li sin al min
mi sur la ni

Mi scias, el ni la
La de
la de
la mi dormis
en la
la de
en la

Mi vin. Mi amis vin. Mi
la la portante
al mi super – sexed subite al vivo,
Mi en la. Mi
in la
en la
pro La La

I find that there are compelling parts to both the English and Esperanto translations. The redundancy of familiar words in the English almost causes semantic satiation – the sense of losing all meaning when a word is repeated too many times. In particular, this reminds me of the line in Dickman’s original poem of “… Two people/rocking back and forth like a buoy.” The oscillation between sense and nonsense here recalls (at least for me) the fluidity of water.

As a non-speaker of Esperanto, the words take on a lyrical quality, as if reading solfège notes (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do) aloud. Again, this play between sound and music is one that captures the essence of the slow dance. Although its literal meaning in Esperanto may not rationally convey what Dickman’s original achieves, I find that it still possesses a nuanced aural quality that replicates some of those same sentiments.

Chain Poetry

For this assignment, the class was given an order and allowed to make whatever permutations to the poem they saw fit. I took the poem out of the haiku form, separating each into three columns by dividing the lines into first, middle, and last. When I finished, I had twenty one lines in each column, and divided them into three subsections of seven lines each. I took the first subsection from the first, second, and third columns, and put them together to make the first portion. I continued the same process using the second and third subsections.

students colligates
trinket luminous
audience impaled
luxurious and flamboyant
A dated Mustang
the eyes green now faded
wells damps of sweat
a dormitory often
a trinquete is a special
in rhetoric, particular
Stefani had an emotional
The earliest certain ancestor
a false, coined, fake, bogus or
a list of visitor attractions
running clocks tick-tacking
dimensionally carvalhos to top
a end bitter
with a statue brusque
its motor stills roar
she scratched, chips, breaks
on lights brilliants

he wraps o’round heat
I am positive
and must append in
how you are courageous for
Chapinha champanhe obsoleto (sloshing champagne obsolete)
pure innovation
ridge of Turkish brilliant
Telefonica, S. A.
A tittle or superscript
Asyndenton is a figure
the word how is used as a
the free surface effect is
purely functional is a
tectonic uplift is the
hugging every rib
for look able
for look able
cuts from paper bloody
they say. Kiss of year new.
population remexe
Moses goes, he takes

Tailcoats the grass
my muscles become tense
one vote to protect
the smell of tint fresh
Frames mounted knocked down
I wet pains in members
But I can adapt?
Oh time runs, tickety tockety
a dress coat, sometimes called a
the Virgin Mary, the mother
in mathematics, negative
a false, coined, fake, bogus or
an A-frame is a basic
A tittle or superscript
Asyndenton is a figure
a hydrogen bond is the
revestimento de açúcar Terra
impeded by fear
soldiers fight until the death
Smell esteems Escritores
fight, disconnect
and forget defeat
To be accepted
the people forget?

I enjoyed the short quality of these lines, as they maintained the five or seven syllable format of the haiku despite being taken from that form. There are some lines which are not five or seven syllables, and although these were likely unintentional on the part of the previous writer in the cycle, I preserved the lines as written. I think that the succinct nature of haiku lends itself well to very exact and beautiful imagery, and was interested to see how the imaginative vocabulary and specific groupings of words would react with one another when displaced. Although many lines are inexact and lack the grammatical structure present in the original compositions, there are also several places in which the new recombined poem has a new flow that I appreciate.

The recombination also allowed for opportunities to change the meanings of different lines. Interpretations of significance varies strongly based on context, and the imagery of transient glamor present in the first section is one that is very different from the more scientific approach in the second, or the militaristic connotations in the third. Although many of the lines manifest in each section at different points, the effect of their surrounding lines is significant.

Note card poem

Ten classmates each wrote down a word and phrase on separate index cards during our first class, and we went around the classroom repeating the words in random orders as sound poetry. We collectively explored the way that sound and repetition works within a composition, both related to and divorced from its literal meaning. At the end of class, I was tasked with collecting the note cards and constructing a poem from them. I have had few experiences with collective poems: it is not specifically a collaborative effort, because others did not have input past the initial word choices, but the limitations placed on the poem by the vocabulary I had to incorporate made this an unique experience.

Although our class experience was centered on the aural experience, I wrote the poem with less abstraction in a more traditional free-form narrative. A friend wrote the word “Apopenia” for his card, a vocabulary choice that amused me greatly given the experiment. I provide the definition first in the beginning of the poem, and then split up the definition throughout the four sections as a means of linking otherwise disparate elements. Feel free to critique the poem and my methods as a comment – I find criticism and critique valuable in my own writing, and would love to hear of your impressions of this piece.

Apophenia – the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

Apophenia Apophenia Apophenia

If I had a cup of joe for every time someone said that
I’d be drinking coffee forever.
I rejoice because the experience of the trite proverbial sentiments fuel my caffeine addiction,
although I never took a shine to coffee the way that I ought to.
It seemed like a great opportunity,
Though the bitter taste reminded me of charcoal.

Because seeing Jesus was a fisherman
(a biblical factoid that I don’t know for certain anymore)
I treat myself like a prophet. Catch one and return it.
Butter him up, tell me I’m pretty.
Carry the words like a pocketful of rocks
With patterns of holes in my trousers –
I lack the style to be eloquent, but have eloquence enough
To eat nonparaphrasable gleanings for breakfast
An atypical comestible that betrays my transcribed affectations.

Call me Persephone.
Stain my lips with pomegranate juice and mythic literary allusions.
Because love is only somewhat fatal,
Because we grew cold when the summer ends,
Because we allow our connections to lack agency
Because it’s easier that way.

I’m told that it’s always sunny in Philadelphia,
And it’s true that our heat waves are historically unpleasant.
We sponge our damp foreheads as the sun beats down
and sweat at the random mention of potato salad or barbeques.
This is what we fought for, what we erect monuments to.
“With liberty and justice for all” is up for debate
But my patriotism (or thorough ambivalence) keeps me from integrating
With either of those groups that criticize it as meaningless, or defend it so openly.
Stars and stripes and mayonnaise, data each beautiful in its own way.


For this assignment, I took the poem “Remember” by Christina Rossetti and substituted three or four words in each line for other generated words with the same parts of speech. Although the randomness of the list of words I generated is debatable, I tried to make the substitutions without consideration of the original context.


Forgive me when she has gone away
Gone green away into the tepid land;
When ourselves can no more cleave me by the linoleum
So I half turn to extinguish but turning stay
Remember everything when no more gold by leather
You steep me in our future that they stained
Only unravel me; neither understands
It will be careless to spread then or organize
So if none should confound me for a while
And jaggedly remember, do not laugh
For if the florescent and winter crosshatch
A vestige of mountain that once I made
Better by far I should confess and be sad
Than that you should tremble yet be true.

My choice of poem was something of a commentary on the exercise itself – although the original requests that the reader remember the subject once it has gone away, the alterations to the substance of the poem obscure its original meaning that its sentiments are no longer present. Speaking to the last lines of the original, where Rossetti writes that it is “Better by far you should forget and smile/Than that you should remember and be sad.” the poem has a play on the idea of memory by contrasting with the original and referencing confessions, sadness, and truth.