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Kyle Minor Reviews the McSweeney/Göransson Chap Deformation Zone
Speaking of translations, over at HTMLGIANT, Kyle Minor has more than some notes on the chapbook Deformation Zone: On Translation, co-written by Johannes Goransson and Joyelle McSweeney and just out from Ugly Duckling. The book, UDP writes, comprises two essays, one by each author, exploring their ideas. Minor introduces the authors well:
Their work routinely crosses the borders that perhaps artificially have separated the practice of poetry, fiction, the personal essay, the scholarly essay, the Internet post, the stage play, the translation of the work of others into English, literary mentorship and collaboration, and publishing. (For an introduction to some of the tentacles extending from what is beginning to look like a single monstrous conceptual work — ground we’ve already covered a little, here and elsewhere — I’ll point you four places: 1. “A Few Notes on The Necropastoral by Joyelle McSweeney;” 2. “An Expansive Review of Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate. by Johannes Goransson;” 3. Montevidayo, the collaborative literary blog whose contributors include McSweeney, Goransson, Kate Bernheimer, John Dermot Woods, and others; and 4. Action Books, the publishing house whose books are edited by McSweeney and Goransson, and whose authors include Hiromi Ito, Tao Lin, Abraham Smith, Lara Glenum, and Kim Hyesoon.)
After discussing the central poem in the chapbook, Aase Berg’s “Deformationszon,” which is printed in both Swedish and English on the middle fold, Minor engages the essays.
…McSweeney and Goransson have likewise been long taken with the idea of permeability, of the transgress across borders including bodily borders, of wound imagery (herein, the wound in the wilderness fence and the corresponding wound in the wilderness, the word “cunt” and the implied mouth of the “doughnut-fatso.”) So the surprise is not that Goransson’s essay, which is the next likely thing the reader will encounter in the book, is titled “Translation Wounds.” The surprise is the thing that is always the surprise: How will Goransson turn this idea around so we see it in a way we haven’t seen it before?
“Translation Wounds” begins with a discussion of Daniel Tiffany’s study of Ezra Pound, in which “discussions surrounding translations seem to rack up corpses.” (Dryden’s comparing of a dully translated poet to a “carcass,” Pound’s obsession with ridding poetry of “Victorian corpse language,” Pound’s idea that in translating Guido Cavalcanti, his “job was to bring a dead man to life.”) Goransson writes:
Pound sought to reanimate this “corpse” by abusing the “meaning” of the original through extreme literalism. Pound used radically materialistic forms of translation such as homophonic translations or the use of deliberately exotic or archaic words. The “meaning” may have been “lost” but the materiality of the text is brought to life.
Goransson puts in conversation with Pound’s “corpses of translation” McSweeney’s notion of “the body possessed by media” and her “aesthetic of possesion”:
“Can a body be possessed by media? It’s a trick (and tricky) question, since a medium, in the occult sense, is supposed to be possessed by others. If an entity can be possessed by a medium, or, worse, by media, it is then opened to all kinds of possession, penetration, contents it cannot contain, overcrowding, doubling up, debility, and damage.”
Minor covers McSweeney’s essay, “Translation, the Slavish Mould, the Filthiest Medium Alive: With Special Reference to Matthew Barney, Andy Warhol, and Divine,” as well. It begins, as he writes, with the question:
What regime does a work of art appeal to? Does the work of art appeal to a sensory, generic, or interpretive regime? Is that appeal “abject”? “slavish”?
She takes as a starting place “translation as an example of a work of art,” which “works on extant materials and transforms them–conforms them–into new, sculptural, legible shapes” and speaks of how “rhetorics of etiquette and behavior–rhetoric itself–the terms of the appeal–are constantly being applied, in a disciplinary manner, to the medium of translation.”
She uses the word medium in two senses–medium as “the material of art” and medium as “the conveyance, the technology.” (Immediately, the reader also thinks of the word “clairvoyance,” although McSweeney doesn’t use it….