Heat is a translation

If suns grew in a field together, would they get along? If stars fell into fields, would we memorialize them? If the crescent moon mowed the field, what kind of hay would that make?

Poems are made of heat, light, consciousness. On a hot day in August like this, maybe poems get lost. Maybe in wildfires, and in damaging droughts, poems wither and die. What can we still rescue?

Once, at a poetry translation conference I commented that the tea cakes were redolent of a meadow. One of the poets asked me to translate meadow. He was not familiar with the word in English. I said “a field of flowers.” Sometimes I wish there were no other words.

If you want to make… a poem

I just learned the word “biophony” from a project by poet Rebecca A. Durham. That’s the harmony of soundscape vocalizations of non-human animals in a particular biome. Soundscape ecology might be a good place for poets to explore in general, even if your projects aren’t specifically ecopoetic. The sounds of the world are intrinsic to our medium.

To start, you could choose a single vocal strain in your neighborhood (cricket, catbird, snake, honeybee, etc) and “translate” it. Remember the elements of a good literary translation by being faithful to both sound and sense. Let the poem sing from there.

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