Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dissecting Owls

Emily Lloyd recently posted this poem by Julio Cortazar.

To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls you need
Forgetfulness.
The last word ruins it for me for reasons I can only explicate by experiment. These poems are better (translations?):
To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls you need
To forget.

To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls ...
(Forget about it.)

To dissect lions
You need lightning
Try to forget
The little owls.

2 comments:

K. Silem Mohammad said...

To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls you need...
Um....

Thomas Basbøll said...

I think I'm starting to see why I don't like the word "forgetfulness". It is an abstraction, an attempt to return to the well managed darkness of the Burkean sublime. The first two lines are sublime in the usual way, lions and lightning are fearsome things, and we here have one of them taking the other part. Hard to imagine. Very nice and sublime. Then we get something manageable like little owls, which gets us thinking, imagining, seeing, etc. But the word "forgetfulness" has nothing concrete to hold on to. Just something more colloquial would be preferable. Almost anything.

I had tried to stay true to Cortazar's idea, as Kasey's perfomative variation also does. But it got me thinking of doing things very differently (no longer just "better", now really a different poem):

To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls you need
Umbrellas.

Though it may make too much sense (goes too well with lightning, via rain). So perhaps something that doesn't fit the picture at all (a bit 80s this one):

To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls you need
An orange.

A disturbing one can be made by introducing an object that fits too WELL:

To dissect lions
You need lightning
For little owls you need
A knife.

In any case, the word "forgetfulness" interferes with the reading of the poem, for reasons, I think, of diction. (It is too poetic).

This may of course not be the case in the original...