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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s