Friday, March 26, 2010

Translitic Poetry

Taken from "In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop" by Steve Kowit. Steve, you're a gentleman.

A translitic is a poem "translated" from a foreign language by paying attention not to the meaning of the words but to their sounds. The poet uses as a guide whatever homonymic associations come to mind. So a line like "Garni vers un plus immortel" (from a pom by Jules Laforgue) might vaguely sound like "Garnish worst of plush immortals" or "Carnivore's impulsion or tells" or "Carny verse unplugs the mortals." Needless to say, it is easier to use a poem in a language you don't know. You can stick close to your first reading or, in later drafts, simply use what you have as a springboard and go as far afield of the original poem as you wish, making the final poem entirely your own.

So here is my poem. Translated from the Swahili. I will first post the original, followed by my first translitic iteration, and then my final draft.

     KUNA SIRI GANI HASA?! (Original)
     by: Atoya Dadi
  1. Kichwa kinanizunguka ,kila nikifikiria
    Ni wapi ilipotoka, nani aloivumbua
    Ni nini hassa hakika, mie havijanelea
  2. Kama ni mila hakika, iweje imeenea
    Kwa bara la afrika,yuropa hata asia
    Fikira zinaniwaka, hili nataka kujua
  3. nnani alotamka, fikiraze kaenea
    Dunia ikaitika, wazo lake kachukua
    Wazungu maafrika,hata na wachina pia
  4. Kina mama pasi shaka, ndio waliotuzaa
    Hata awe na haraka, anakimbia balaa
    Mkoba hujipachika, hatakama hajavaa
  5. Mkoba wa mkononi, kwa kina mama hadaa
    ukimuona njiani, mbwembwezake ni balaa
    Akiufungua ndani, wallahi utashangaa


    by: Luke Felt   

1.    Kitchen Zucchini kills necrophilia.
       Nice walking hippopotamus, not alive bamboo.
       Zucchini has a paprika, we have genitalia.
2.    Common manila paprika, a Quiji. I mean it.
       A queer bar in Africa, Europe and Asia;
       fickle ear a zamboni, now talk a cut who-hah.
3.    Mommy, a lot and corn filled raise. Canine!
       Doing it with the IT guy was a lame, catch you, idea.
       What’s with you, my freaky hat, now watching a pie?
4.    Keener mama passes shaker into wally, or does the?
       Hotter are the maracas on a give me a dollar.
       My cola hoochy patch leaks: a hat and camel and java.
5.    My cola warm cone only clocking a mama hat, ah!
       You key a moon, own a ninja, and when bazooka nebula...
       I kill you fungus and awning. Wallaby, who would shot God?


    CAN I SEE YOUR EERIE HOUSE?! (Final Draft)
    by: Luke Felt

1.    Catching Zachary killed the night time.
       I was walking, hips outstretched, but not lying. Barely.
       Zachary had a palid face, we had generosity.
2.    Commonalities provided a needless experience:
       queer babbling about Afros, your home, etcetera.
       Wander near the trombones, now talking doo-da, doo-da.
3.    Morning: a walk in corn fields, raising hell.
       Doing it now, what’s mine made tame. Watching your ideas!
       What’s with you, my friendly fat cow? Watching awhile?
4.    The other mothers pass, shaking, into walls. The orchestras
       are hot with maracas. Give me a holler.
       My cool new house leaks about a quart of water.
5.    My cool new house warns for only a moment of
       you screaming a tune about midgets. And when you looked around you,
       I killed the fungus in the night time. Now ask me, who shot God?

Writing these were a lot of fun. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Exercise taken from:


  1. Wow, I forgot how awesome that book is & how freeing that exercise can be! I like your results-- especially some of the wildness in the first draft (the first line slays me!)

    I'm doing this later. Thanks for posting!

  2. Wow, that does look like fun. I'm definitely gonna try it.