Weekly Prompt: Homophonic Translation


Charles Bernstein | Courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

This week’s prompt is taken from leading Language poetry practitioner and theorist Charles Bernstein‘s “Experiments” (handily compiled by the University of Pennsylvania’s Electronic Poetry Center).  It asks you to venture into uncertain linguistic territory where meaning ceases to guide your composition (or in this case, translation) process and, instead, turns the reins over to sound.

We all know what homophones are, words that mean differently despite their (usually identical) sonic qualities (see/sea, their/there), and this exercise is one that relies almost exclusively on the odd transmutations of meaning that can happen when two words sound the same but signify different things… in different languages.

Though you will be working to translate a piece of poetry from another language into English, because the translation method is based on homophones and sound patterns rather than denotative/connotative meanings, your process will undoubtedly yield some wacky — but wonderful! — results.

Continue reading “Weekly Prompt: Homophonic Translation”