Monday, November 30, 2009

Old trombone my verbiage into some Italian rock!

I learned from a blog this morning that one of my poems has been translated into Italian and set to rock music.

The translator and songwriter is a man named Andrea from the northern Italian band Van Cleef Continental. I met him years ago on a listserv devoted to The Replacements, thinking I was flirting with an Italian girl who was into American post-punk. It's a man's name in his country.

Andrea and I met once in the Milan airport, where I was connecting en route to Ghana, and we have kept up with one another's projects over the years. In fact, his attention to my work scoring long poems was what motivated him to request some of my poetry so he could score it.

He chose this poem - the first piece in my chapbook A heart I carved for a girl I knew.

I used to be precocious.
I’ll spare you that bit,
The old fart expostulates
On his precocious youth.
I was right on time, though,
Or a little behind the swerve,
On this middle-aged thing,
This old blues. I have no eye
Out for car lots, or hair pieces,
But I did want to run away and join the circus, again.
I do, I do want to run away and join the circus,
I want to somersault out of a cannon, into the empty air,
I want to sleep beneath the stars and my carnival ride,
I want to put my head into the mouth of the lion. I do.
I want to run away and join the circus, with you.
The Van Cleef blog has Andrea's Italian translation, which I can't read. Though Google Toolbar gives me the option of translating his Italian with the flick of a switch. Doing so gives me this English version of my poem:

I was quite early
I shall spare you this part,
old trombone that verbiage
about his early childhood.
But I was more than punctual, however
Or a little below average
this thing to middle age
this old blues. I never had a great eye
for the resale of cars or the hairstyles special
but I wanted to run away and join the circus
and I still want to run away and join the circus
I want to do a spin in the air, fired from a cannon
I want to sleep under the stars, near the carousel horses
I want to poke your head in the mouth of the lion. yes.
I want to run away and join the circus with you.
I love "the old fart expostulates" going into Italian, then coming back into English as "old trombone that verbiage"!

I'll have an mp3 of his song soon - I am told it is a piano rock ballad (I love me a piano rock ballad). I expect Andrea will sing the English version - my English version.


Andrea is the man playing bass to the left in this photo from the Van Cleef Continental MySpace page.

1 comment:

Matthew Frederick said...


i like the idea of using a google-type translator to translate a poem into another language, and then back.

the results often are delightful, and usually at least humorous.

reading the "carousel horses" and rememebering that it originally was "my carnival ride" is a cool effect. like a recapitulation and a variation at the same time.