I've been asked to participate in an evening celebrating John Ashbery's new translations of Rimbaud's "Illuminations." The section entitled TALE resonated with where I felt my life was at this point — a bit groundless yet lit; my job in transition again, a few life curves to consider, your basic mirror-check with the other eye free in the ease that waddles in the shift. Hello Sir Ashbery, ur Rimbaud… allow me my punkdom.

Interpreting a translation gives me an appreciation of the distance offered — that path of size from story — the levels within the original palimpsest inherent to the passage. One approach I tried was a homophonic translation created out of the original text which was then merged with the Ashbery translation — a scientific concoction — an elephant as an albatross — over-information as a wake-up call. Too-much added to nothing-new. I revisited Ashbery's "Convex Mirror."

Simplify. Is what I felt should happen. The translation needs to be heard. As itself. But don't just read it. Record it. Okay that's a start. Movement. While the words are heard. A play. A dance. Too involved. Go back to the text.

Was there a way to subvert the text, to look under its neural activators, and simplify it while keeping it intact? Speaking of simplicity, boys of every age, here in Soho and the world over, have erupted in Springtime, looking down the blouse of anything curvy… like clockwork. Like seasons... in hell. Just an observation.

Okay, so the poem is a fairy tale about a prince who has lost reason in the face of wonder. It came to me that the prince could be life… rather, society. The world and its consumption, its vortexed hunger for media shutting off real human contact. A synopsis came through in the poem, every few lines… a resolve, a map, a chart of humanity's social progress. One or two words to sum up every few lines of text, for a parallel text.

I could hold that up on a board while the recording is heard. Too Vanna White. Make it the opposite, Satan. But death and vanilla have been done… to death. Disappear. From the stage. From the poem. Hold up each word, as a huckster. An invisible pawn. Entertaining the horde. How would silent Satan gesture his curse? Pilobulos. Cirque Du Soleil.

The recitation is in a dream state against a numbingly massaged music track. The performer wears black shoes, white pants, white shirt, white gloves and a black lace blindfold across the eyes. 5 white boxes, 12 x 12 inches, on the floor. Each side has one or two words in black. The recording plays, each box is 'floated' up by the performer's hands, in extreme mime gesture, showing each side in harmony with the text. At the end, the last box shows one side black, one side white, one side with two dots. The performer places that box down, lowers the blindfold to cover his face, takes out two dice from his shirt pocket… this is timed as one fluid gesture. When last words are heard, the dice are thrown, lights fade.

And where are we from the original text? The translation? The Ur-translation? And what it means to drink in something you know you don't know?

[the five cubes are below, if you listen to the audio you can imagine where each side of the cube appears]





friend me

defriend me


meet me

give me

hold me

Tweet me

kiss me










to dream

to be

to talk

to you

to me





to dust




Originally Published: April 28th, 2011

A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...