It began with Chilean poet, Vincente Huidobro. The opening / preface of his poetic masterpiece, Altazor, launches into a metaphysical cascade of imagery. This was exciting to a young poet like me—at age 29 with some Spanish knowledge and seeking a manifesto to climb (the name “altazor” is a combination of the noun “altura” / “altitude” and the adjective “azorado” / “bewildered” or “taken aback”).
I’d been experimenting with layered or looking-glass ekphrasis (a term that I’ve coined for this process). As I create cinepoems, a visual language in of itself, I found this poem in particular to be different: it was fueled by a homophonic translation (three languages fused: English, Spanish, and the visual). From this, a separate Lithuanian poem sprung, inspired by the overlapped sounds of street noise, a looped harpsichord, and selected juxtapositions of the poet’s translated phrases and/or words. Now four languages.
Note: It was also a synchronous discovery to find that the first issue of Huidobro’s international art magazine, Creación, featured Lithuanian-born, Cubist sculptor, Jacques Lipchitz.
(From the Lithuanian, roughly translated):
Ink of dawn
Scales & shells
A falling acrobat
A forgotten ship
Don’t know the birds
Don’t know the river
I was born from the rain
Without a name
Without a nation
Not giving up
I gave everything
Full text of homophonic translation:
KEEPING UP WITH THE HUIDOBROS
I was born at the age of eight on the cut
of no Christ; gin and tonic was the equator of my
hairless pain under the geraniums of the German
piano, a cuddy beneath bergs. I had the blank
stare of a victim, a relentless bicycle. I breathed
in the next blind father upon a trapeze bar, I loved
the daylight, the curtain of every hat. My mother spoke
with larks coming from her mouth, she embroidered
buttons to my breast. On the first day,
I asked the larks to un-beak these buttons,
to look upon the nudes of the gallery,
to collect the broken shells of rational hearts.
Then I created my tongue and braided my grave.
I constructed my development from my grandmother’s
slips and Russian soap stars upon the tombs of sublime
retinal failure. Speeding gold chessboards of sight,
perhaps they preferred disconnection so as not to see
the disconnected language sculpted from this life;
perhaps when disengaged, the last sigh of vision
delivered untangled tropes. I looked at my fists,
angled as accordions, a horse upon each virgin
extracted for the stain of sleep, the illusion of hair.
Where the blood of my vain tongue slipped into my
father’s glass and burned my skin an effigy; of phone
cords and exoplanets of bound light; each season a blister
of stone; I, a little soldier who fights. All of my
throats the planets, money wired to each wintry
renewal of skin, more skin, all the skin I could
grow. I drank the hunters, the cascades of bile,
each hammer of my selves a bitter astronomy. There
is a secret to my vertigo, it’s my gills
in a sea of handkerchiefs.