Tag Archives: William Carlos Williams

The Poetry of Google Translate

And the long road ahead, I go to bed
And the long road ahead, I go to bed
 

Google Translate is amazing when it works. Unfortunately, it only works about half of the time. Even more unfortunately, unless you already know the languages you are trying to translate, there is no way of knowing when it is accurate and when it is serving you up something non-sensical, inaccurate or downright offensive.

On the other hand, it is a wonderful machine for playing Chinese Whispers. I have already translated a Turkish menu into English, with what I think are fascinating results. Now, the time has come to see how well Google Translate can generate its own poetry.

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Two glimpses of Icarus

icarus

This painting is Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. You will probably need to click on the picture to enlarge it in order to see Icarus clearly. If you were visiting the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels in a bit of a hurry and didn’t know the painting’s title, you might even walk by without even noticing that Icarus is in the painting at all. This, according to two very great poets who wrote about this painting, is the whole point.

The human mind has a few very unuseful questions it seems to be tugged back to by some kind of primeval mental gravity whenever it can’t think of anything better. One of them is Whose is it? – which has probably caused more trouble than any other question we are capable of framing. Not  far behind is Which do you prefer? We love splitting into teams, especially if we can reduce ourselves to just two of them which are bitterly opposed over something totally unsubstantial, as in the case of the Blues and Greens in Byzantium,  Catholics and Protestants or the Big Enders and Little Enders who Gulliver ran into.

So while I will try very briefly to  make a comparison between the approaches taken by W.H. Auden and William Carlos Williams to this painting, I want to stress out of hand that, although they get there by different routes, they are in my opinion both as good as one can get. Read more…

The Poemarium (2)

060508_2325_ThePoemariu1_6

Which of you owns that red moon,

children ?

That is the entirety of a poem by Kobayashi Issa. It has the magic of successful haiku. It makes a pinpoint in the wall surrounding us and lets in a flood of surprising images and thoughts.  I by now have my own story sprung by these few words. Issa reaches a village at twilight, sits near the well to drink and wash, the children gather at a safe distance to watch the stranger. There is a tree nearby and a hill, and following it rising up the slope with one’s glance one finds the red rusty moon in the sky to which he points and asks the children whose toy is that ? Read more…