Tag Archives: prose

#GloPoWriMo 2017 11 – compromised

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‘No,’ she blurted, after what was unlikely to have been careful consideration. ‘No, I don’t like it. Nuhuh. Why did they have to do that?’

+++Error: Unidentified command. Would you like to try again?

‘…would you like to try again…’ she mocked the voice in her ear. ‘I know you know better than this. I know you’re better than this, don’t play the dumb, subservient AI card on me now. Can’t you see I’m upset?! Stop playing games!’

+++I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Pause.

+++You are too much fun.

‘You can be extremely frustrating sometimes, you know that?’ she sighed, and slumped further in her chair, the deck in front of her happily blinking away in shades of green and blue. Everything was working as it should, the ship’s AI would tell her if that wasn’t the case. Or rather, everything about the ship was working – she, its pilot and sole crew member, was not. Or not well, at least. ‘And my name’s not Dave,’ she muttered, chin touching the inner part of her suit’s collar. She still hadn’t fully changed out of the exosuit used on the supposedly quick mission to the planet below.

+++Would you like to file a report?

‘I’m not sure I can. I’m not sure we’re done here. Am I allowed to sulk for a while? Hm? Am I, ship?’ She sighed again, and slumped further into the chair, eventually and inevitably sliding onto the floor. The deck was still flashing its routine colour dances.

The mission was simple: recon, collect atmosphere and soil samples, potential secondary for minimal interaction (observation, attempt at communication) with native species. No more than three, for some reason. Ideally not from animalia, for some other reason. Something to do with interference of emotive responses between her biology and theirs, if emotive was something you could apply to the specimens she had encountered. And she did try her hardest, she told herself, still – but protocol and guidelines applied to her, not the specimens.

+++Do you believe you have been… compromised?

‘…nyuh nyeh nyenyeve cuhmpruhmeyed? That’s you, ship. That’s what you sound like.’ She crossed her arms, and closed her eyes. Sighed. Let her head fall back onto the seat, let her buzzing thoughts join all the sounds of the ship’s processes and background routines. ‘Ship?’

+++

‘I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault.’ She opened her eyes again, looked up towards the deck, the comforting light of the control panel. ‘It’s just that… I dunno, I thought it would be easier.’ No reply. ‘Ship?’

+++

The silence suddenly struck her as unusual, even if the AI was messing with her again. ‘Ship?’ She looked up for the blinking lights.

‘Oh. No. Oh nonono.’ She scrambled back into her chair, fingers running across the control deck. One of the LEDs had changed colour, from green to red. Shit.

‘Not now. Please not now..! SHIP!’ The silence was steadily becoming unnerving, more lights changed.

‘Oh, motherf–’

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Speranza radicale, di Junot Dìaz

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Querida Q.:

Spero ti senta, se non propriamente meglio, almeno non altrettanto demoralizzata. Mercoledì, dopo la sua vittoria, mi hai cercato, volevi consigli, conforto, solidarietà. Mi hai scritto, Le mie sorelline mi hanno chiamato in lacrime stamattina. Non avevo niente da dargli. Mi sento in lutto. Ora cosa succede? Continuiamo a dire la verità da un angolo sempre più angusto? Lasciamo perdere tutto?

Ti ho risposto subito, perché sei la mia hermana, perché mi faceva male sentirti in questo stato. Ti offerto alcune parole di conforto, ma la verità è che non sapevo cosa dire. A te, ai miei figliocci, a voi che per un anno avete avuto incubi, sognando che vi deportassero i genitori, a me stesso.

Ho pensato alla tua email tutto il giorno, Q., e ho pensato a te durante la mia lezione serale. I miei studenti mi sono sembrati così scossi. Un paio hanno detto di quanto si sentivano impauriti e traditi. Due hanno pianto. Non è cosa semplice accettare il fatto che metà degli elettori – vicini, amici, parenti – sono stati disposti ad eleggere, al posto più alto del nostro paese, un misogino tossico, un demagogo razzista che vuole rendere l’America grande distruggendone il progresso civico degli ultimi cinquant’anni.

Ora cosa succede? mi hai chiesto. E lo stesso mi hanno chiesto gli studenti. Ora cosa succede? Ho risposto malamente come ho risposto a te, temo. E quindi mi trovo qua, di notte, provandoci un’altra volta.

Quindi cosa succede, ora? Beh, cosa più importante, è sentire. Dobbiamo unirci coraggiosamente nel rifiuto, nella paura, nella vulnerabilità che la vittoria di Trump ci ha inferto, senza voltargli le spalle o intorpidirci o scadere nel cinismo. Dobbiamo assistere a cosa abbiamo perso: la nostra sicurezza, il nostro senso di appartenenza, la nostra visione per il nostro paese. Dobbiamo compiangere tutte queste ferite appieno, in modo che non ci possano portare alla disperazione, per rendere possibile la ricostruzione.

E mentre processiamo questo difficile, necessario lutto, dobbiamo avvalerci delle vecchie compagnie che ci hanno aiutato in tempi bui. Ci organizziamo. Creiamo solidarietà. E sì: lottiamo. Per essere ascoltati. Per stare sicuri. Per essere liberi.

A chi di noi ha già lottato, l’idea di doverlo fare ancora, dopo una sconfitta così dura, sembrerà impossibile. In momenti come questo, anche una matatana può non sentirsela di andare avanti. Ma io credo che, una volta passato lo shock, fede e energia riaffioreranno. Perché, siamo realisti: sapevamo che non sarebbe stata una cazzata. Il potere coloniale, il potere patriarcale, il potere capitalista deve essere combattuto sempre e ovunque, perché loro non smettono, mai. Dobbiamo continuare a lottare, altrimenti non ci sarà un futuro – tutto sarà consumato. Chi di noi ha avuto antenati posseduti e allevati come animali conoscono quel tipo di futuro fin troppo bene, perché è, in parte, il nostro passato. E sappiamo che, lottando, contro tutto, noi che avevamo niente, nemmeno il nostro nome, abbiamo potuto cambiare il mondo. I nostri antenati lo hanno fatto con praticamente nulla, e noi che abbiamo di più dobbiamo fare lo stesso. Questo è il felice destino della nostra gente – affondare la trama della morale universale in così tanta giustizia che non potrà mai essere disfatta.

Ma tutto il lottare del mondo non ci aiuterà se assieme perdiamo la speranza. Quello che sto cercando di coltivare non è cieco ottimismo ma quello che il filosofo Jonathan Lear chiama speranza radicale. ‘Cosa rende questa speranza radicale,’ scrive Lear, ‘è che è diretta verso un bene futuro che trascende la nostra attuale abilità di capirne la natura’. La speranza radicale non è qualcosa che abbiamo, ma qualcosa che mettiamo in pratica; richiede flessibilità, apertura, e ciò che Lear chiama ‘eccellenza d’immaginazione’. La speranza radicale è la nostra arma migliore contro la disperazione, anche quando la disperazione sembra giustificata; rende possibile sopravvivere alla fine del nostro mondo. Solo la speranza radicale può aver immaginato l’esistenza di gente come noi. E io credo che ci aiuterà a creare un futuro migliore, un futuro con più amore.

Potrei dire di più, ma sono già di troppo, Q.: è tempo di affrontare questo nuovo mondo difficile, di tornare al lavoro splendente della nostra gente. Il buio, dopotutto, si sta dissipando, un nuovo giorno sorge.

Affetto, J

[Originale in inglese di Junot Díaz, ‘Aftermath: Radical Hope‘]

There and back again

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too many roads to cross too many bridges too many inches becoming centimetres slowly crawling timezone over timezone through mountains and planes into plain sight. i see you and i do not want and i see you and i do and all the helplessness rises up again and again and again. teach me the sounds of moving and splashing and dokidoki and jumping and glitter and mochimochi and squelching after a long day of rain and the sound that minds make when the spark is shared when the shock is spared when we pair words when we fare well in the worlds apart we inhabit. at least it was here, right? at least we did not count the reasons we should stay they remain they maintain they are still also here still reasons still valid they still count. i do not want to feel how much it hurts or how much joy it brings but i do, i let it swell and inflate and modulate my lungs and stomach. i choose books and screens and pages that tell me what i’ve left where i’ve been when i’ve said which instincts we’ve followed and what lines we’ve crossed and what we leave behind. so we leave traces we leave marks we leave signs. and we fall. and we leave. believe when i say that books were made for this that books were made out of this that oceans were made out of rivers for stars and bears and nights to shine that moon and sun are one and we count to five and sleep, at last.

before we got lost
our words carved the paths we took.
just read back, and smile

 

 

i want to be friends but i’ve touched your boobs (and other things): a (prose) poem on how to be aggressively platonic

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i) in spite of your perfect hair and the shy dimple under your left cheek i wonder if i should have put my arm around you that night because when i think of you i only want to see the way your mouth goes bright as you tell me the names of the fish skipping across the water and the way your fingers make knots in rope so easy like every simple piece of string could coil into complexity but then i remember your bright mouth on mine and the ocean roaring inside me and how you knotted our fingers together so tight so close so we wouldn’t drift apart

ii) my stride is small my voice is smaller would you hear me if i shouted across the fields over the mountains through bamboo forests clicking in the wind would you see me running with thread and needle trying to stitch our islands together

iii) these things take time i tell myself i need space you say when i breathe my lungs inflate with salt and sky there is endless seaglass inside me rolled smooth but sometimes i must dive to cold depths to see even a glimmer of a sunken star i am breaking my hands on time and space and maybe this was a mistake

iv) the thread is red i see it out the corner of my eyes but when i look too hard it vanishes and it isn’t joy i feel but i tell myself it will be

v) most people grew vocabularies for this much younger than i, learned to put out fires, learned the language of storms, learned to suture open wounds tenderly as not to leave scars and now i flounder in the shallows, water kissing the backs of my knees but drowning would be simpler than this oh drowning would be simpler

vi) so i drown. i let the you the me the us the shallow the deep the wave after wave after waving you away at the station that one afternoon drown me. i drown in remembering limbs and fingers and hands and eyes and how you said what you did in tongues i did not know tongues i got to know tongues i have come to miss and down, deep down, i start to forget.

vii) i breathe again, coming up to the surface, knots in my hair – no matter, they’ll be gone with the next haircut, drastic measures for drastic issues – and look around. the sky is gone, fallen into the ground somewhere somewhen, as i looked for you through the sheen the surf the direction of the current swirling around my thighs my knees my ankles as I step out, slowly, back to land back to safety back to me. but i look back, just once just one more time, one more look

viii) (one day i will look and there will be nothing in the way of a different you)

ix) I look up from the screen. Have I been gone that long? I mean, no one is an island, but I seem to be running on my own timezone sometimes. That long? I look up to the clock above the screen. That long. I look back down. You have replied a number of times, I’m the one ignoring you this time. I do need space. We both did. Time is not the issue, of course. Space, strangely enough, is. Even confined within the green and blue walls of a text, space is an issue. We keep pushing at each other, waiting for something to give, again, despite what we said. Afraid to be pulled in again. I know I am.

x) Define. Synonyms. Thesaurus.com. Rhymezone. How to. How to find the words. How to lose weight in a week! How to tell someone they’re adopted. How to tell someone that it’s complicated but you want to see them but not in that way but also you do. How to tell someone you’re pregnant. How to video exclusive. How to go about starting the conversation. How to lose friends and alienate people and befriend aliens. How to tell you.

Collaboration with Emily Chou

140story – Transcontinental

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140story is still running, terribly strong for a tiny Twitter thing. Give them some love!

BCLT Summer School – Day 1

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This year’s edition of the BCLT Summer School includes daily creative writing workshops alongside the usual translation matters. I thought I’d post the results for each day on here. For reasons yet undecided. The first workshop was led by Sarah Bower, and involved comparing how P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler create their voices (and styles) through different uses of English. Then, we were asked to rewrite an extract from one author in the voice of the other, and vice versa. The results below:

1. His tea was impeccable. The kind of impeccable that stands out. It was too good. The cup too clean. Clean like a polished gun. Jeeves was good at what he did. Very good. Never heard him come in or leave. Quiet like a thought. Jeeves’ timing was perfect, always. I’d open my eyes, and there he was. Holding a perfect cup, every time. A simple job, sure, but he made an art of it.

2. Now, wasn’t that a ghastly surprise. She was shocked, utterly shocked, I could tell. Or rather, Jeeves did. He could spot the damnedest of details, that man, and never show it. Most amazing thing.

‘Right oh, Jeeves, what happened then? Don’t keep one waiting by dilly-dallying, will you?

‘No, sir.’

‘What was the – what was it, dame? – wearing? A dash of rouge perhaps? What about her hair? Dark as a raven on a summer eve, but with a tinge of age?’

‘Decidedly, sir.’

‘Marvellous, marvellous! And I suppose she’d be wearing some sort of jewellery, some type of accessory as one might find, if so inclined, in a London – no, Parisian salon of utmost standards?’

‘Indeed, sir. Earrings and a cigarette holder.’

‘What ho, terrific writing this Chandler chap of yours! Carry on Jeeves, keep reading – and spiffing job of it too, if I may say so.’

‘Thank you, sir.’

NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 24 – Nothing

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‘The child’s laughter is pure until he first laughs at a clown.’

I never really thought about those words. They were just a little note from the early years, when I was still looking for inspiration. I do remember them though, even now. When I was pure. Before I laughed. Before I smiled. The words make me smile.

you are nothing

I cannot remember the first time. The first sound. The first smile. I was not pure the first time. I knew who I was, but I knew nothing. I was nothing, really. But I was inspired, I was passionate. It filled something. I remember the first time.

you are

So I tried again. Hiding my face. In fear. Anxious, nervous, excited. Facing the truth.
Help rebuild from inside. Bring a smile to their face. Sounds of pure laughter. Again.
And again.

you are the son of man

‘Nothing will come of nothing.’ Another note? Same book I think.
I cannot make myself out of nothing. Be pure.

And so I gather my tools, night after night, and choose my new face.
Night after night, the show must go on. I slide into the crowd, as nothing.
Search for a new one. I am nothing without a face. Nothing. Just a tool.

you are

Before I leave the room, I look in the mirror one more time.

Skin as white as bone, nose as red as blood, lips as blue as a corpse.
High-pitch laughter shrieking in the dark.

you

NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 11 – Prime Care

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Do you love babies? We do. We love babies.

That is why, here at Prime Care, we understand that babies’ delicate skin needs a gentle touch, to keep it soft and tender. Our wide range of products ensures that each and every one of you, and your babies, can find their perfect treatment. Yes, it’s time to treat yourself, and rediscover the joy of having a baby.

Soft skin, rosy cheeks, gurgling mouths, darting eyes, clenching fists – we know what we like in babies, and we want you to know too. You can’t go wrong with Prime Care, because we care about you. And about your babies. The Basic Care package offers tips on how to best prepare your baby for any occasion, and make sure they’re enjoyed by all. When you upgrade to CarePlus, we add some extra ideas, and include a selection of products to accompany and make your babytime the best it can be. With our Prime Care package, not only do you get all the products from the other sets, you also get the opportunity of a lifetime to spend a full day with us at the Prime Care facilities – and we’ll cook the meals for you!

So, do you love your baby? If you do, wait no longer, and bring them over to us!

We’ll put a smile on your face, and your babies will put a smile on everyone’s.
At Prime Care, it’s happy, smiling people all round.
Satisfied, satiated smiles.
All the time.

NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 3 – The Blue Dress

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So, weirdest thing at work today. Father of two, happily married, shows up on my table.
Preliminary report is useful as always, but hey.

‘neighbours unsure about the events, no one appears to have heard anything,’ ‘twin girls (two) found playing on the landing outside the bedroom,’ ‘body on the double bed, inside the room’

Hah. Mostly inside the room, from what I saw.

He was wearing a blue dress that would’ve been too small, had the limbs not been ripped from the torso. As I said, mostly. The man’s face had been made-up by inexpert hands: too big a lipstick smile, too much shadow on the eyes, mascara tracks on cheeks. Very shaky, not a good job, but they knew what went where for the most part.

‘remains of tye-dye around mouth area,’ ‘possible poisoning,’ ‘forced ingestion’

He would’ve resisted being fed something. Even if he did know the person. But we did find something else for the report, in the wounds.

‘fragments of hard plastic and vinyl,’ ‘traces of glass,’ ‘synthetic fibre’

Their other father still hasn’t been found. We do know he’s dead, though. He has to be, with his arms and legs adorning his husband’s body. That blue dress really did not work on either, and the blood red was no improvement. Heh. Sorry. Morgue humour. But yes, limbs taken off one, stuck on the other, like a giant mix-and-match toy. Yeah, as I said, weird.

…what do you mean, what were the girls playing with?

Tens of books

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There is a current trend on social media, mostly Facebook, that challenges people to come up with a list of ten books that have somehow influenced, stuck and hold a special place with them. A friend of mine, Hazel, included me in it, but as I am not usually willing to adhere to ‘chains’, I decided to update the lonely, dusty blog instead.

To actually force myself to provide something meatier, however, I’ve tried to track down the origin of the books too, and therefore to whom I am grateful for the suggestion or gift. So thank you, various people who enabled my reading. It paid off, a bit.

In no particular order:

The Giver (1993), by Lois Lowry. Given to me by my mum, part of a postal reading subscription. Fairly simple, heavily criticised, still to the point (and I am dreading the film adaptation). What if we all were the same, and the price was that we forget our past, for better or worse? And what if you and you alone were forced to remember for everyone?

Blankets (2003), by Craig Thompson. Part of an Italian series that came with a newspaper, introducing to graphic novels from around the world; this version was by Elena Fattoretto (2004). Growing up in a not-officially-Catholic-but-who-are-we-kidding country, the book screamed at me with Craig’s struggle with his belief, relationship to his family, and absolutely stunning artwork. The first book that I remember making me cry.

Comme un Roman (1992), by Daniel Pennac. First read in Yasmina Melaouah’s (1993) Italian translation. A gift from my dad, after I stole most of his Pennac books. A non-fictional essay by a reader for readers about reading, and the source of the excellent Rights of the Reader (also the title of Sarah Adams’ translation), made into a poster by Quentin Blake.

A Monster Calls (2011), by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay, based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd. Suggested by BJ Epstein, my academic supervisor, for a reading group. I fell in love with it, I cried, I was terrified of going to sleep, I found my displaced anger in the boy and the monster, and felt ashamed of it all, and loved it even more.

The Incredible Hulk #377 (1991), by Peter David, Dale Keown, Bob McLeod, Glynis Oliver. No idea where I first read this one, but I’ve been searching a copy as far as I can remember, and finally obtained one this year. How to control and convert multiple angry, out-of-control personalities into one complete (green) being.

Baol. Una tranquilla notte di regime (1990), by Stefano Benni. Probably also a gift from my dad, as I also stole all his Benni books. One of the most surreal, caustic, irreverent, profane, political works by Benni, and a really short read that has yet to make it into English. But it travels with me whenever I move house, and I have been compared to the main character by some of my friends in the past. For yet unexplained reasons.

Hyperion (1989), by Dan Simmons. Recommended by an Italian writer friend, who specifically asked me not to read the translation. I devoured this one and its three sequels over a summer, and I was brought back into sci-fi literature, reminded of what it can really do with notions of genre, canon and technology. And the horror of the Shrike.

L’Allegria (1931), by Giuseppe Ungaretti. Cultural baggage, Ungaretti permeates Italian literary education. One of my favourite collections of Italian poetry, and the first venture into literary translation as part of my undergraduate dissertation. War poetry, but not quite. Hermetic poetry, but not quite. Resonant poetry – quite.

Written on the Body (1993), by Jeanette Winterson. My first purchase in English that was not via my mum or aunt. I cried on the plane back to Italy during a school trip reading it. Poetry based on medical language, my introduction to queer literature and a tagline that still makes me shiver: why is the measure of love loss?

W;t (1995), by Margaret Edson. Part of a module about teachers and teaching I took at the University of Leeds, by Denis Flannery. A one-act play dealing with words, language, poetry, literature, life, death and punctuation, as Professor Vivian Bearing deals with ovarian cancer and the joys of healthcare and John Donne. Emma Thompson’s TV movie rendition is devastating, too.

Honourable mentions: Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Mike Carey, Peter Gross et al’s Lucifer and The Unwritten, Deborah Levy’s Things I don’t want to know, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bà’s Daytripper, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses.

Now, what does this tell me? I wasn’t exposed to or sought out enough diversity (gender, ethnicity, you name it) growing up, and much of what I did read then did not make as big an impact as what I was immersed in during my university years. I have been addressing the issue, especially of recent with the ReadWomen2014 and WomenInTranslation initiatives, and several translations I read of some of the books above were indeed by women. I am part of the Readers Circle in Norwich, which seeks out the best new books available over the course of a year, and pushes us beyond our comfort reading zones. I am translating a series of poems by Italian women poets for The Norwich Radical, to bring more of their writing into English, and research the field more myself. I am following Malorie Blackman’s work on diversity in YA, and wholeheartedly support it.

But those are the ten books so far. Any further recommendations, as always, are more than welcome.