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3 Auto-translation Poems from Ross Sutherland’s ‘National Language’

Each of these poems was created in collaboration with an
automated translation program.

Famous poems were fed into the program, then bounced
back and forth between the different languages. With
each translation, the computer program was forced to
collapse the ambiguity of the original, causing the poem
to mutate in new unexpected directions.

By the hundredth translation, the accumulation of
translation errors was usually so great that the original
poem was obscured completely.

I worked as editor throughout this process: I checked the
manuscript in-between translations, cut out the words I
didn’t like, and sent back unsatisfactory verses for
another attempt.

I tried to guide the transformation the best I could,
selecting what I believed to be the most fruitful path
through the different languages. If the text needed to be
shaken-up, I sent it though one of the Asian translators,
using the third sentence-case to ‘explode’ ideas inside the
text. Alternatively, moving back and forth between the
Latin languages created a much more controlled method
of semantic change.

An extended essay on this project is published in Stress
Fractures: Essays On Poetry (ed. Tom Chivers) (Penned In
The Margins, 2010). A documentary based on this essay
is due for release online in late 2011.

Emptying the Hundred Internals of Quebec

(Translated from “Disembarking at Quebec” by Margaret Atwood)

Once enlisted, one obtains a dress. It is functional, as is my method—
The mission of holding four things in a hand
over a reservoir, a stock market of roofing tiles
with insufficient colour-development for even a concave neckerchief.
My field of study is inadequacy.

For me, shortage is belief.
It makes these spectacles of devastation:
long warships, the traps, the sterile white, the sharp interpretation
of helium, the transport of
bones inside omens, all in one
week of winter during January.
The foreigner forms his denials accurately—

The scream of an external personality jump!
Release a situation and put!

The motion of territorial waters cannot contiguously store
my reflection.

It is unaware of the kiezelsteen

to whom I speak with hollow respect.
And above my words, national language.

Inside the Inverted Railroad of the Bilge

(Translated from ‘In a Station of the Metro’ by Ezra Pound)

My internal multiplicity breaks
inside this illusion of a face,

in the midst of a hallucination
of wood and maple, it maintains its variety—

I occasionally stop at locations
to lecture from a chapter of hazardous colours,

so fast, serious and accurate
that a heavy seat develops

from which I speak a gross dead centre;
the place that all the colours go to go black.

Something has changed inside me
as I approach one of several exit ramps,

where maple trees are planted with hallucinatory surfaces.
I know I am approaching a gap in the Earth,

here in this capital of dangerous colours.
So many starve, here, it is important

to talk about its dead unripe centre.
Such a heavy place must be converted.

You have already placed your flowers.
Now, go.

Methods of a Young Conductor

(Translated from “The Railway Children” by Seamus Heaney)

If we were to put up a pardon for the interruption
of writing, we must look upon heights in the volatile polar regions of
bind with bells in the witness of white women.

We must demonstrate how beautiful the hand is to the hoof,
That the Occidental exceeds us, that the burden of those outer miles
doubles in the lower part of our beverages.

Being after-thoughts, we are shall. Knowledge does not know its
value. It can lead the rain and direct nations, but
incense candles cannot emit futures.

The fields of danger will swell, the sky inflamed,
Lorries will be exchanged to pay for debits,
and we will scramble up there, undetected:

We will entrust function to the eye, and possibility to the map!

Ross Sutherland

Read National Language

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