David Hadbawnik’s Aeneid (currently a series of hand-sewn and illustrated chap-books numbered 1 & 2; 3 and 4) is a translation-as-reduction, paradoxically allowing for selective amplification through subtle resonances generated in the space of what’s left out. The epic in general is no light reading, although these translucinations make it so without trivializing the content. Like Christopher Logue’s similarly reduced Iliads (but unlike, I would say, Ronald Johnson’s erasure of Paradise Lost or this more transductive work of conceptual needlepoint), the modernist spacing and minimalist gestures of condensation allow the poem to take advantage of an aeon of intertextuality, without getting the Laocoön end of it.
Willis Barnstone speaks disapprovingly of literal translation as like a “xerox machine.” This derogatory use of the word xerox in relation to translation is a little unfair, especially since the xerox is a much better metaphor for translation pushed to its creative extremes than is the more typical technological reference to the game of “telephone.”
No language is one. That’s one of the more salient affirmations of Derrida’s work on translation. This multiplicity and struggle for meaning, the infirmation of a singular text, is amplified in these works that introduce images in ways that are additive, not reproductive. Eugenes Ostashevsky and Timerman’s recent collaborative chapbook The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, Part I extends the informatic looseness of Brainard/Berrigan’s Drunken Boat to show that if language is not one, neither is it 3.14159265 . . .
Ted Berrigan’s “The Drunken Boat” — a mimeograph publication from 1974 with drawings by Joe Brainard — exemplifies a different type of insouciance towards the source text than any we’ve seen thusfar. Berrigan passes off his seemingly straight, utterly conventional translation of Rimbaud’s “Le Bateau Ivre” as his own work. He calls his translation a “homage” to Rimbaud — which, while usually a humble gesture acknowledging influence and gratitude, in this case could be possibly interpreted as a form of naked aggression and erasure.
In the last column, I speculated that Mary Jo Bang’s translation of the Inferno was initially seduced by but ultimately rejected the more corrosive qualities of Flarf. However, in the baroque-brut line of Henrik Drescher’s accompanying illustrations, there seems to be a corrective, drawing us into visceral mess of hell’s innards, albeit with high artisanal flare. These illustratings seem to outdo (or undo) Gustave Doré's engravings from his popular Dante volumes of the 19th century, in that they are at once more terrifying and more cuddly — open to being in an loose relation with the text they accompany. In contrast, Doré's engravings are so aesthetically overpowering that, existing in volumes that were kept around the house more as a marker of status than for reading, the illustrator’s name is more commonly associated with this Divine Comedy than that of its proper translator (Henry Francis Cary, who for the longest time, because of a C with an overgrown serif, I thought was merely “Gary” — like some anonymous Cher or Prince of a forgotten poetry scene).
Emma, Susan, and I moved to Buffao in August of 1990. I did these works in the following Spring, when Emma was turning five. Some of these xerox-generated pieces, an extension of Veil, and many of which focussed on my own hand-written mss and notebooks, were collected in Ray DiPalma's Hot Bird Mfg as Language of Bouquetsin 1991 (9 sheets, stapled at top). This set of work involved overpriting, rather thant overwriting, as in Veil. The two images here are quite different that the others in this series: I overlayed a drawing of Emma's over the printout of "Emma's Nursery Rimes." The poems, from July 1990, were published as part of a collaborative book with Bee, Little Orphan Anagram (New York: Granary Books, 1997) and later collected in Girly Man. Emma always said she wrote them.
At the time I was creating the series Veil (1976 EPC didital edition) [also pdf of Xexoxial Edition], I also made some other Veil-like works. A couple are in the Sackner collection:"I became a consultant to the world outside" (left) and the horizontal veil below. & then there were two Veil postcards, the latter one published by Station Hill Press in 1980. The conceptual key to the Veil works were that they involved overwriting not overprinting: that is, I overwrote my writing as a composition process. They are a form of writing, not design.
I received Hannah Weiner's contirbutor's copy of this superbly enthralling book. Get a 15% discount using the code Hybrid for order from Siglio Press. Pictured: from Weiner's Pictures and Early Words (1972) [scan from book]