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from the July 2012 issue

Fish Variations

“Fish Variations” presents very interesting challenges to the translator in its play with linguistic form. The poem involves a very high degree of phonetic engineering, with some verses grouped together by vowels and some by consonants. For more detail, see the translator's blog.
A fish
Swims its way
Through the deep dark sea
Ah! There is nothing
Now left undone 
Letting out a little breath
I start to walk across the endless 
Fields of cotton wool
Consonantal variations 
The dish packed with bananas
Brings again to mind
The rot of the village and the maggot shed
Ah! There are shoots in
The far-off fields of home
Dancing eagles
A scarecrow whinnies  A rainbow stands  In slip the bellies of some 
Twenty-four steamers
A scribbler called Takada
Trips one day and falls
Down the mountain of no education, employment or knowledge
Ah! Here take the bones out
No pink cheeks or long johns over thighs
Cleaning dry ears with a conductor’s baton
A tanuki looks at the grave of a mongrel dog almost as 
Bad as Pegasus
Bereavement leave—one morning
I shall say nothing foolish  Messing around
Trying to set the cattle loose and things like that
Mama’s eyes  Identical children of the tribe
Pleading with their mama’s eyes
Charming quite charming even if the days end without meaning
All journeys explore this side of the atmosphere  Yaji Kita—foolish good companions 
On the Tokaido 
Vocalic variations 
The face of despotic government
Bored for seven days his crew hoisted sails
There’s great risk  So shall we now
Leave  Damn it’s bad
In the last minutes sincerely then unnamed for ever
Hurt of love in vain held on to still
Performing the holy dance every year again and carving out names
Ditches sex appeal
A forced disembowelment
Poked fire in olden days and cried at hissing rain 
That’s grotesque  Snow
Love  Dancing body
On the list of assets seventy thousand is far over 
Hearty rubbing face healthy Thai style
Barefoot Meoto Hill he bends over for a coin and gives it to NeNe
Flay a kitten whale
Interlingual variation
i  i  i    o    a  a  a  a                                         (a  i)
u  a  u  u    a  i  u  i     o  a  a  o                     (i  u  e)
o  o  i  e    u  u                                                 (mm)
a  a  o    e  e    o  u                                         (a  (i))
o  o  i  o    o  u  o    o  a  a  i  o    a  i             (mm)
a  a  i    a  i    i  a  u    i  i  o  a  u    o              (i)
i  a  a  u    a  i  i    o  a  i    e  o    o  a  a  o    (mm)
a  u  i    a  i  e  a                                              (mm (u))

© Yotsumoto Yasuhiro. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Angus Turvill. All rights reserved.


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