Day 21 — writing poetry with Rilke via Googletranslate


Today’s poem is a strange little beast. I’m reading a collection of Rainer Maria Rilke, when I came across a poem which although ostensibly about love, had a few vague echoes about disease/the coronavirus (well to my pandemic-overloaded mind it did at least). Intriguing, do go on.

Prior to this I’d been thinking about translation (it’s a dual language edition, so even though I can’t read German I’m often flicking across to compare versions, to see if I can see words I recognise amongst the autobahn zehn-Autos-stapeln-sich Deutsch so often is to the untrained). 

I’d also been thinking about translation because the edition was one I hadn’t read before & I was really recognising the clarity & cleanth of the translation. It was hugely adding to my enjoyment. Then I wondered how I’d go translating it. That was about 3pm. It’s now 8. I’ve studiously avoided looking at the English translation since. I punched the German text into google translate. Then went from there using the text the machine gave me. 

My version is a “loose” quasisemitransliteration of Rilke’s. I’ve tried to keep roughly to the original, but I also tweaked where I needed to & occasionally much more than tweaked to make it work better for my interpretation. I know google translate had its own little idiosyncrasies because it spat out a phrase “to Christmas every hour” & I’m damn sure Rainer didn’t mention that particular festivity but I went with it anyway. Only once this is uploaded, will I compare the two versions.


everyone alone
(a quasisemitransliteration of “I am too alone in the world and yet not alone enough”)

too alone in the world, yet not so alone
to not try keeping Christmas through this strange year

too small in the world, yet not big enough
to be resist a thing like you: dark & clever

want my will & to accompany it against inaction
want contentment in these quiet, hesitant times

want to not be among those who remain — alone
when your thundercloud darkness approaches 

want to deflect your sickly embrace, not entirely
but enough to keep your heavy swaying punch at bay

don’t want to stay here, or anywhere, indefinitely
don’t want to be tied to where I was born

want to roam wander, rove, ramble, meander
to traipse, travel, tramp, traverse, trek — want to drift

i want to survive
like that picture my love made me in a world long & close ago
like a newly learnt word i now understand
like my daily jog through twitter’s outrages
like my dog’s face on my knee when i cough too long
like a ship carrying me through a deadly storm.

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