Thursday, January 28, 2010

OK, What is he saying now?

I am fascinated with translation tonight. I've borrowed from the library two books of poems in translation -- same author, different translators, 10 years apart. There are about a dozen poems in common between the books and the differences between them are remarkable. There are some word choice differences, but there are two key differences between the works:

In one, there seems to have been a conscious choice to simplify, opting for simpler words in most cases, maintaining a shorter line, leaving out images that appear in the other. Not coincidentally, these translators also decided to employ a regular line rhythm, and an English rhyme.

Now, I do occasionally sacrifice a word for an aural effect in my writing, but when I hold up a translation that exhibits an end-rhyme in the target language, I admit I'm suspect of it. I'm not multilingual by any means, but across the Spanish and few bits of German in my head alongside my native American English, I'm not aware of any word pairs that rhyme in all three tongues.

Of further interest, I've been experimenting this year with the paraphrase, taking well-known bits of English literature and restating them in my own language. Translating them, if you will, from their original form into the language I speak, whatever you might call that. Not only a writing exercise, this is also a reminder that there are multiple ways to say everything, that every communication choice we make is a reflection of our own style. And every communication choice is a chance to lay our own style on top of whatever bit of information we transmit.

So thinking back to that author who I've been reading in translation (and no, I'm not going to say who it is for a while - part of a future project), I wonder what style decisions he made in his own words and which translator is truer to it. And which is imposing his own style on someone else's words.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reflections on Tasty Coco!

Tuesday night I was invited by Rick Mullin to perform a bit of my poetry at Tasty Coco in Caldwell, NJ. Been a long time since I prepared a 20-minute set (last time was April, 2009, and the time before that was in 2008) and I had a different kind of challenge than I was used to in preparing for such things. In the past, I was comfortable with a basic "extended open" approach to preparing the set: identify 6-7 poems I liked and wanted to present, pick a few others to create some decent transitions, knead until blended. And since I was never seriously close to committing the chapbook to print, I never really considered that I might be "featuring" its contents for consumption in pursuit of sales interest.

Now, I had the the book beginning to feel real (I even had a prototype to hold up if I wanted to), but I also had 2 other projects that were interesting enough to me that I was considering doing something with them (one's a persona package approaching chapbook length, one is a fun sequence that may or may not be able to sustain itself for 24 pages.). On top of that, I've been writing "in response" a lot in the past year, and I've always found that poems that link to other art or to events that the audience has a little collective recollection of make for great moments in a reading; at least from the audience, which is where I'd always experienced them before.

Another factor was my co-feature, Quincy R. Lehr, whose style on the page was much truer to form and at the microphone much truer to performance art than mine. There wasn't much chance of similarity in either content or presentation from us, but I didn't want to even flirt with it.

There was also the format of the series, which I knew from prior attendance was highly interactive and informal, and included a "lightning round", or a once-around-the-room after the open and the features, in which every poet in the room gave one more poem. So I'd have to save something back, a cognac-like aftermoment which would be my last impression on the crowd.

And finally, there was the crowd, which I knew was going to include at least a few folks who know me primarily as a technologist or a project manager, who in fact are career technologists themselves, who may have seen my poems on paper before but would never have seen me as a performer (except in training sessions, which actually is a good way to show off your skills - but that's another post). So not only did I want to make a good impression, but a particular impression, and one which wouldn't present itself back to me too embarrassingly in line in the cafeteria.

Oh, and it was Poe's 201st birthday, so I wanted to mark that, somehow, as well.

All of these things are "good problems", of course. I take away that I've got a little more to offer as an artist than I used to, that I'm reaching that "wider audience" I've always coveted (not that my Mother's opinion isn't always very encouraging), and that I haven't lost my skills for anticipating the crowd (which, if you have been hanging around here long enough, you know I had far earlier in my life than my serious interest in poetry). But it also signals to me that I've arrived at that necessary transition point, that I'm no longer interested in having a few minutes of microphone time. And that my ambition for creating has grown to the point where it requires conscious cultivation, that I can't take a month off from writing and expect to pick it up a the same place it was, that the project is now at least as important as the individual poem.

So what does this mean? I don't know. Kind of a wake up call for the year, really. Maybe not a make-or-break year, but certainly one in which my expectations for myself are changing. Need to set some larger goals for 2010, of course, and start thinking in terms of that 2-year cycle that seems necessary for the completion of a book/project. And about carving out the writing time instead of taking it where it comes (with a focus on revising and assembling, which is not something I can do easily orally, as I tend to compose).

Thanks then, to Poetry at Tasty Coco and Rick for giving me this opportunity not only to drag a few of my engineering mates into the poetry scene, but also to have this moment of reflection. I feel like the bell has been rung, and it's up to me to answer it now.

Speaking of "bells", the homage I paid to Poe was to read the opening section of "The Bells" before reading my own stuff. Rick was nice enough to capture the moment and post it to his channel. Take a look and let me know what you think.

And stay tuned. This could be a good year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In which we take a few minutes on a Sunday evening to repurpose some adrenaline left over from the Jets victory

"Greetings from! This is your 'Jets 16, Chargers 14' Update.

We know you're busy thinking through how you'll celebrate the Jets' victory* on Sunday, but we don't want you to forget about the days following that momentous event, either: planning your evening menus, organizing your receipts to start on your taxes, and coming to see David Vincenti read with Quincy Lehr this Tuesday at Tasty Coco in Caldwell, New Jersey....

* - Yes, we believe. We always believe."

I sent it to my mailing list yesterday. I swear!


Since I brought it up, shall I mention a bit more about this Tuesday? Tasty Coco features a nice bistro menu, heavy on good desserts and coffee drinks, and a rather large fraction of their energy goes into presenting local artists. This week, those artists are Quincy Lehr and yours truly. Rick Mullin is the host.

I've been going through new and old poems for the last week or so thinking through my material; Rick serves up an interesting format, one that is extremely entertaining in how it circles through the voices it presents. The open starts, then the features go on for a while, then the rest of the open, then a "victory lap" where every poet present (including the features, of course) does one more short poem. It's worth coming out to see.


Busy couple of months coming up here. Two scheduled readings in the next month, one already booked for July (and keep contact with the Facebook page for two more in the works!), forcing me to update the portfolio, which I've been horribly neglecting. Having been focused so much on polishing and repolishing the chapbook manuscript (and being busy with family and work - the clear priorities, in the end), I'm sure I've been losing good ideas. The current notebook has lasted me a year; even with relaxing my rule against composing in MS Word (I use a pencil or a tape recorder), that's not good enough. But this reading's given me the kick in the seat I needed to dust off the newer projects. Sometimes you need that.


Did I say chapbook? Yes, I did. More on that next month.


I've been flipping around in Ray Gonzalez' Consideration of the Guitar (New and Selected Poems); I'll take it from the beginning soon, but this is how like to work my way into an author whose work is new to me: a random sampling of the buffet so I can decide where to dive in first.

I get to it all, don't worry.

Interesting, though - Gonzalez is one of those poets whose work is very different to me aurally - I have the same trouble hearing Gonzalez that I do hearing Coleman Barks. They're not similar poets at all, but they do share a low-key, inmitable presence at the microphone which I can't replicate in my head. That won't stop me from consuming the work, of course, but I do need to get past it before I can really enjoy the work. Is that crazy?


See you Tuesday?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Starting the New Year Right

A few posts ago I mentioned how a recent workshop I attended made the link between gratitude and diffusing stress; it also went on to connect diffusing stress with increasing energy and increasing energy with operating efficiently (seems obvious to type it, but think through everything it implies for how you make and act on your daily decisions!). So in an effort to hit the new year in stride, here are a few coins for the gratitude meter as it applies to the little writing hobby that carved out this little corner of the Internet.
  • I am first and always most grateful for my family, who find enthusiasm for not only the time I spend on my writing, but for the writings themselves (even when they don't "get it"), and for the geeky quote collection I've accumulated in my head from projects over the years. They remind me the truest meaning of support: That something is important to me is reason enough for it to be important to them, and I can tap into that trust as the reason to write.
  • From the unknown conference attendee who participated in my May presentation on project management, and took the time after to complete an audience evaluation form, on which was contained the single word "Useless", I am grateful for this important lesson: Nothing I write will be meaningful to everyone, but that should not stop me from writing; those who find value there will do so irrespective of other opinions.
  • For the poets, the band of linguophiles, editors, and teachers who permit me to sometimes run in their company and never, never, use the word "idiot", I am grateful for the generous examples they provide in person and in poems. From them two goals for the year: to live up to their generous adjectives and their specificity guidance.
  • To the teams and athletes I root for (that's the Mets, Jets, Yankees*, Norm Duke and Parker Bohn, among other lesser followings), I remain as grateful as I was when I was 10 for the recurring chance to cheer, thrill, groan, and completely lose myself in the pursuit of something with great passion with no consequence more severe than a Sunday afternoon. The residue of passion is momentum. Better if the Jets win, of course, but the adrenaline persists no matter the outcome.

The learning from my workshop was that gratitude = energy, eventually, and I do believe that. But it seems all the more important in the pursuit of a writing hobby, where the feedback cycle is measured in seasons, if not years, to have one's energy be generated from within.

Let that be this year's resolution.