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.

Day 20 — positive thinking while in lockdown

William Shakespeare writing at home

I was saving this idea for the 23rd (Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/chose-your-own-anniversary-day) when I usually write something Shakey-related. Anyhoo this was an idea I thought I might explore then, but it poured out of me today, so we’ll just deal with it. (I do have another idea in reserve, or perhaps something entirely new will pop out.)

Also thanks to a poet whose work I hugely admire, as well as being a dear friend, for saying he’s been enjoying reading my poems. He was particularly kind about this year’s Easter Sunday poem saying it “abided with [him]” & it’s been returning to his mind often over the last few days. He’s even left it open in his browser to be able to come back to it. Thank you Tom. That means the absolute world to me. It often feels during this mad month that you’re writing in & to a vacuum; and that much of what gets created is pedestrian at best, or merely not-quite-average, so even if only one or two poems fire during the month, it feels like a success.


Plague Lear 

if, like me,your mediocrity valve is already open
full trickle then saccharine motivational memes
such as Shakespeare wrote Lear during the plague 

aren’t.   bloody.   helping.   one.   poxy.   bit.

well take a modicum of heart cos the reality is
Shakey dates are always shaky at best but Lear
probably doesn’t quite pass the jester test

sure, Lear was most likely written in 1606
it was entered into the Stationers’ Register that year
& contemporary events seem referenced within

yet 1606 wasn’t such a big deal as pandemics go
— most every year had a bitta Black Death — the Great Plague*
didn’t hit til 65 & the Sweet Swan was long gone

1603 was the go to year for things bubonic in Bill’s life
& all our country boy turned out then was (chortle)
Measure for Measure — yes, one of the “problem plays”

if you really want to feel insecure (& no doubt you do)
consider that 1606 might’ve been the year not only
of Lear — but Macbeth — & Antony & Cleopatra too

                                                     Bing.   Bang.   Boom!



*Between 1603 and 1665, only four years had no recorded cases of plague. 

The Great Plague of 1665-66 was actually the second plague to be so known; the first was in 1625 & was known as the Great Plague until it was surpassed in deaths by the “final” Great Plague.

Plague was par for the course for everyone in those days is what I’m saying.

Day 04 – the flat curve round the corner

04 The falling Curve

Was intending to write a poem based on exercise from yesterday’s Na/GloPoWriMo site. However, I spent so long collecting words (part of the task) that I had no time left to actually write the thing. So I’ll try & get to that tomorrow using the words gathered today.

So this then is a quick stopgap, started only an hour ago, based on one of the dozen or so ideas I’ve got stockpiled to work on this month. As such, it’s a bit rushed, but it’s okay. As I always say, Na/GloPoWriMo is not about crafting perfect poems but trying new things, having poems to work on post April; & occasionally if you’re lucky catching a lightning bolt or two in a bottle along the way.



the challenge with the whole lockdown
don’t leave the house, isolate yourself
curve-squashing philosophy is if it works
all the instant expert naysayers will neigh
see it wasn’t as bad as your henny penny
sky’s falling economy-killing hysteria predicted
— which although technically frustrating
is surely not as grave as the alternative,

despite this, some debate whether the cost
of flattening is really the lesser of the evils
— which in a way overlooks an essential issue
the fact that we as a species are living
way above our credit level & treating earth
as a giant hypermarket where we can grab
anything we want without needing to pay
— well, debts are starting to be called in.