April 26th, 2016

Motion them with breath

Collaboration with Jesse Vanden Eynde (guitar) to translate the rhythm of a poem into sound.

August 18th, 2015

David Wagoner, Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner, Traveling Light Collected and New Poems. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

June 10th, 2014

Shakespeare and Love

Stephen Fry at the 2014 Hay Festival, speaking about Shakespeare’s sexuality, sonnets and the disputed authorship of his works.

December 21st, 2013

forget words

I live here in a village house without
all that racket horses and carts stir up,

and you wonder how that could ever be.
Wherever the mind dwells apart is itself

a distant place. Picking chrysanthemums
at my east fence, I see South Mountain

far off: air lovely at dusk, birds in flight
returning home. All this means something,

something absolute: whenever I start
to explain it, I forget words altogether.

No. 5 from Drinking Wine; T’ao Ch’ien (365-427 CE)

Translation: David Hinton

October 27th, 2013

the temperament to which art appeals

The temperament to which Art appeals … is the temperament of receptivity. That is all.

If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He is to be the violin on which the master is to play. And the more completely he can suppress his own silly views, his own foolish prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.

Oscar Wilde, via BrainPickings.

October 20th, 2013

air and light and time and space


”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems

September 21st, 2013

is it real?

It’s an old tradition in the West among great poets that poetry is rarely thought of as ‘just poetry.’ Real poetry practitioners are practitioners of mind awareness, or practitioners of reality, expressing their fascination with a phenomenal universe and trying to penetrate to the heart of it. Poetics isn’t mere picturesque dilettantism or egotistical expressionism for craven motives grasping for sensation and flattery. Classical poetry is a ‘process,’ or experiment—a probe into the nature of reality and the nature of the mind …

Real poetry isn’t consciously composed as ‘poetry,’ as if one sat down to compose a poem or a novel for publication. Some people do work that way: artists whose motivations are less interesting than those of Shakespeare, Dante, Rimbaud, and Gertrude Stein, or of certain surrealist verbal alchemists—or of the elders Pound and William Carlos Williams, or, specifically in our own time, of William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. For most of ‘The Moderns,’ as with the Imagists of the twenties and thirties in our [last] century, the motive has been purification of mind and speech.

—Allen Ginsberg, from ‘Meditation and Poetics’, in Going on Faith: Writing as a Spiritual Quest, edited by William Zinser (Marlowe & Co., 1999).

August 26th, 2013

A cup of wine, under the flowering trees

A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
I drink alone, for no friend is near.
Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
For he, with my shadow, will make three men.
The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
While we were sober, three shared the fun;
Now we are drunk, each goes his way.
May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.

— Li Bai, Drinking Alone by Moonlight 月下獨酌. Translated by Arthur Waley, 1919.

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August 25th, 2013

poetry snatch and grab

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises …

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

— Jorge Luis Borges, from ‘You Learn’, translated by Veronica A. Shoffstall.

How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird which flies out of its ashes,
that for a man
as he goes up in flames, his one work
to open himself, to be
the flames?

— Galway Kinnell, section 7 of ‘Another Night in the Ruins’ from Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin 1982).

Beauty is an intangible thing; can not be fixed on the surface, and the wear and tear of old age on the body cannot defeat it. Nor will a ‘pretty’ face make it, for ‘pretty’ faces are often dull and empty, and beauty is never dull and it fills all spaces.

— Robert Henri, from The Art Spirit (J. B. Lippincott Co., 1923)

What the world spoke today
was not the world
but what I thought of it.
Six days of rain.
Through my blurred slice of window
I saw a fragment of what
there is to see.
How small I am.
How large to notice
that space among spaces.

— Chris Kennedy, from ‘Occlusion in Long Rain’ in Ploughshares (Winter 1986)

O swallows, swallows, poems are not
The point. Finding again the world,
That is the point, where loveliness
Adorns intelligible things
Because the mind’s eye lit the sun.

— Howard Nemerov, closing strophe to ‘The Blue Swallows’ from The Blue Swallows (University of Chicago Press, 1967)

A grab of poetry found at the excellent blog apoetreflects.

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August 18th, 2013

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.

June 14th, 2013

story structures we enjoy

A charming Kurt Vonnegut visualises the story structures we enjoy. (via reddit)

June 8th, 2013

learning languages by translating with Duolingo

Check out this video: Duolingo uses the process of translation to teach you a new language.

I believe that translating is a good way to improve your language skills, both in the source and target language. Thankfully I also get paid to do so.

This is a cross-post from my facebook page: Jonathan Beaton Translations.

May 12th, 2013

understanding your stocks and shares in the nick of time

This page offers an interesting explanation of the phrase ‘in the nick of time’, but what I found most delightful was — in a side note — the brilliant imagery behind what I had previously thought were two very dull words: ‘stocks’ and ‘shares’. Apparently these words ‘refer to the splitting of such sticks (stocks) along their length and sharing the two matching halves as a record of a deal.’ Wikipedia offers a more detailed explanation:

The split tally was a technique which became common in medieval Europe, which was constantly short of money (coins) and predominantly illiterate, in order to record bilateral exchange and debts. A stick (squared hazelwood sticks were most common) was marked with a system of notches and then split lengthwise. This way the two halves both record the same notches and each party to the transaction received one half of the marked stick as proof.

Later this technique was refined in various ways and became virtually tamper proof. One of the refinements was to make the two halves of the stick of different lengths. The longer part was called stock and was given to the party which had advanced money (or other items) to the receiver. The shorter portion of the stick was called foil and was given to the party which had received the funds or goods. Using this technique each of the parties had an identifiable record of the transaction. The natural irregularities in the surfaces of the tallies where they were split would mean that only the original two halves would fit back together perfectly, and so would verify that they were matching halves of the same transaction. If one party tried to unilaterally change the value of his half of the tally stick by adding more notches, those notches would not be on the other tally stick and would be revealed as an attempted forgery.

The split tally was accepted as legal proof in medieval courts and the Napoleonic Code (1804) still makes reference to the tally stick in Article 1333.[4] Along the Danube and in Switzerland the tally was still used in the 20th century in rural economies.

Better than today’s anti-fraud technology! (Wiki)

May 4th, 2013

bad translator

I’ve been having more fun playing with this than I should really admit. You give it a sentence and it passes it back and forth through a selection of free translation services and then presents you with the übertranslated result.

In this way, my sentence

‘Within a few short years human translators will be obsolete’

becomes the rather more worrying

‘People will disappear’,

or with different settings, the rather poetic but undoubtedly true

‘In some years short human translators will aged be’.

Bad Translator.

April 28th, 2013

there’s too much directing around here

An amusing and insightful recording of an attempt to direct Orson Welles on a voice over for a Findus frozen foods commercial. Welles gets more obnoxious the more frustrated he gets.

April 18th, 2013

the uniting power of wonder

I was just reading the introduction to this book online, The Age of Wonder, because it sounded like an especially rewarding read. A nice quote I can take away from it already:

Romanticism as a cultural force is generally regarded as intensely hostile to science, its ideal of subjectivity eternally opposed to that of scientific objectivity. But I do not believe this was always the case, or that the terms are so mutually exclusive. The notion of wonder seems to be something that once united them, and can still do so.

That is the relationship of wonder to subjectivity and objectivity. It is the element that makes the two extremes compatible.

February 14th, 2013

it schedules me, I don’t schedule it

My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.

Ray Bradbury.

You do something all day long, don’t you? Everyone does. If you get up at seven o’clock and go to bed at eleven, you have put sixteen good hours, and it is certain that you have been doing something all that time. The only difference is that you do a great many things and I do one. If you took the time in question and applied it in one direction, you would succeed. Success is sure to follows such application. The trouble lies in the fact that people do not have one thing to stick to, letting all else go.

Thomas Edison on productivity.

January 23rd, 2013

I am full of life, I will go to sea and find an Antarctic continent

Emerson on Shakespeare and genius.

The Genius of our life is jealous of individuals, and will not have any individual great, except through the general. There is no choice to genius. A great man does not wake up on some fine morning, and say, ‘I am full of life, I will go to sea, and find an Antarctic continent: to-day I will square the circle: I will ransack botany, and find a new food for man: I have a new architecture in my mind: I foresee a new mechanic power:’ no, but he finds himself in the river of the thoughts and events, forced onward by the ideas and necessities of his contemporaries. He stands where all the eyes of men look one way, and their hands all point in the direction in which he should go. The church has reared him amidst rites and pomps, and he carries out the advice which her music gave him, and builds a cathedral needed by her chants and processions. He finds a war raging: it educates him, by trumpet, in barracks, and he betters the instruction. He finds two counties groping to bring coal, or flour, or fish, from the place of production to the place of consumption, and he hits on a railroad. Every master has found his material collected, and his power lay in his sympathy with his people, and in his love of the materials he wrought in.

A gorgeous and insightful text unearthed by 3qd. Do read more here.

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