Zachary Schomburg and Mathias Svalina Poems




Translations: Zachary Schomburg and Mathias Svalina


We asked two poets to exchange work and create interpretations of each other's poems. Click on the links below to read the original texts and new interpretations, and then come back to get the poetsí commentary on the process.




Creation Myth by Mathias Svalina; reinterpreted by Zachary Schomburg



Zachary Schomburg Commentary


I attempted to be as literal and as direct as possible in translating Mathiasí poem into the world I have created in my manuscript, Scary, No Scary. The narratives are, essentially, identical: there is a flood, then a fire, then some disrespect for life, death, and self, then some obvious homo-eroticism for Richard (which I wanted to make more clear (one important task, I think, of translation: magnifying the vital, but subtle.)).


I am consistently wowed by Mathiasí poetry, particularly his new Creation Myths project, and I find myself stealing from his bag of tricks when I write. One thing I most admire is his ability to turn the poem toward places it should never go. Heís risky. And these risks often exemplify his ingenuity. His turn toward Richard in this poem is an excellent example, particularly because of the turnís sincerity. Richard is real. For real. In translating this poem, I needed to capture a similar, seemingly insignificant (to the established narrative) turn.


And to translate this into my Scary, No Scary world, I had to incorporate the following things: a roughly one sentence per stanza structure, zombie-like tell-donít-show emotions, and the building of a house (in the manuscript, nearly every poem is pre-house or post-house). The house is scary.






from Scary, no Scary by Zachary Schomburg; reinterpreted by Mathias Svalina



Mathias Svalina Commentary


Translation as in a conversion.You start with one number & end up with another number but itís still the same number & that number canít buy you a gallon of milk. Jeff Goldblum steps out of the contraption in a garden of dry ice & stands tall & naked in his laboratory warehouse.Translation as in stepping on a different soilóhere we call your mirror the mimeticon, here we call your article the verb.


Iíve been trying to, as all writers are if they know whatís good for them, create an entire world that exists in the experience of the text, i.e. the omnivalence of the readerís eyes & shoe size.There are rules.Gravity.Technology. Phonemes.Ticklish spots. Animals may add you as a friend on myspace & then run out to the store for more condoms.They might not add you & youíll wonder why forever.There is potential for anything to happen & then the inevitable sadness resulting from something happening.Sometimes in high heels.Sometimes walking a dog with a short leash. A seed grows into a cockroach, you see.


In translating Zachís poem I tried to retain the original intent of my reading of his poem within a new matrix or system.I was paraphrasing.I did my best.I see the world of his poem as one of growth, of creation.Ironically I see the world of my poem as one of failure, the original flaw.I was raised Catholic.My dog bit me when I was a kid. In translating Zachís poem I tried to convert his images into my use of images.I zapped them into my little world of stuttering creation myths & asked them to look around & see what they could do.When Superman came to earth he wasnít any different, itís just that he could fly. I invited his thing into my space. His old man was a bird, was all the birds. His I was consumer culture. His soul was memory.










Zachary Schomburg's chapbook, Abraham Lincoln's Death Scene, will be

published by horse less press in late 2006 and his first full-length book of

poems, The Man Suit, will be published by Black Ocean Press in early 2007.

He is currently doing the following things in Lincoln, NE: co-hosting the

Clean Part Reading Series, co-editing Octopus Magazine and the new press,

Octopus Books, pursuing his PhD in poetry, and living with A, M, S and G.


Mathias Svalina lives in Lincoln, NE where he

co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series & co-edits

Octopus Books.Poems of his have been recently

published or are forthcoming in Fence, No Tell Motel,

Typo & Denver Quarterly, among other journals.




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