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The rhythms of free verse and the rhythms of translation.

The purpose of this article is to place free verse in a variety of briefly visited translational situations in order to understand not only why free verse is peculiarly adapted to translational processes, but also what such processes can suggest to us about free verse's relationship with its own rhythmic resources, and what implicit suggestions translation makes about free verse's further development. Underlying this enterprise is the belief that free verse peculiarly provides translation with the wherewithal to discover rhythmic continuities between different languages, simply because free verse, perhaps as its defining characteristic, positively frees rhythm into a multidimensionality that it does not enjoy in regular verse, where, frequently regarded as a variation of metre, it is bound to metre's monodimensionality (syllable and accent), at the cost of other paralinguistic features: duration, pausing, tempo, loudness, tone, and intonation. It is these paralinguistic features that promote rhythm as an experience of the reading consciousness rather than as a feature of textual structure--a shift of emphasis that free verse itself engineers; for the translator looking to translate the phenomenology of reading rather than the interpretation of text, looking to capture reading as a multisensory, whole-body experience, as I am, the paralinguistic performance of rhythm is paramount.

Histories of free verse and of its origins (e.g., Steele 1990, Scott 1990, Kirby-Smith 1996, Peureux 2009) are important because they give us a clearer view of the multiple sources of free verse's inevitability. But there is the danger that they will cast free verse indelibly as postregular (postmetrical) (or in the French case, post-libere) rather than as prototabular (postlinear) and that, in so doing, they will encourage us to think of free verse as unmetrical, or non-metrical, rather than as demetrified. (1) There is the concomitant danger that commentators will busy themselves with the development of a typology of free verses, that is to say, of certain formal blueprints, toward which, or away from which, particular poems will gravitate. This maps out free verse's task as the continued, albeit involuntary, fulfillment of certain transcendental Gestalts, whereas the whole purpose of the "break" with regular verse might be supposed to be the maximization of verse-immanence and of nonteleological polymorphousness.

From time to time (Lowes 150-51; Silkin 7), it is said that while regular verse enjoys the bivocality of metre and rhythm, free verse has only rhythm. But while for Lowes this observation has a lightly depreciative intention, Silkin begins to see what free verse's consequential opportunities might be: "Dispensing with metricality, it is not enough to make a non-metrical poem. Such poetry must redesign the resources released in non-metricality so as to produce something vital" (41). This remark has a double significance for translation: first, it begins to indicate the sense in which free verse can act as an ideal instrument of translation: free verse must justify itself by constantly redesigning verse-resources, by relocating expressive energies, which in turn involves reconfiguring the structural dynamics by which the source text (ST) is delivered to the reading consciousness, and thus the reader's perceptual posture toward it. Furthermore, part of the reconfiguring of perceptual posture is the broadening of rhythmic possibility; since rhythm, as we have said, no longer functions, as so often in regular verse, merely as metrical variation, bound to metre's monodimensionality (syllable and accent), it can come fully into its own as a multidimensional principle, expanding its area of operation to all the other paralinguistic features of verse-making. Let us make no mistake: whereas metre is principally embedded in the linguistic, rhythm has its natural home in the paralinguistic; whereas metre is embedded in text, rhythm is a manifestation of readerly play with text. This is already to imply that free verse, for its full flowering, depends on the performative instability or amenability of its own structures.

One might immediately object that Richard Cureton ("Rhythm: A Multilevel Analysis"; Rhythmic Phrasing) has already, eloquently and with careful argument, made the case for the multidimensionality of rhythm, not only in free verse but also in regular verse, with a seamless continuity from the latter to the former. I would not deny that nor seek to question the rich indispensability of Cureton's work. But I am not of the same persuasion. Although he dissociates himself from the generativists, and although he concedes that readings will vary, he argues that readers, in their reading of phrasal rhythms, are guided by innate rhythmic competences and sees his task as the formulation of grouping well-formedness rules and grouping preference rules. (2) However much he seems interested in reading experience, he is not interested in its multifariousness; he treats readers as "motivated by [their] deeply shared sensibilities as similar beings who bring to the act of reading a poem both a (relatively) similar biological endowment and a (relatively) common cultural tradition" (Rhythmic Phrasing 141). In my own view, competence is constantly vulnerable to the changing demands and suggestions of pragmatics and performance, that is, of a situated and historicized practice that acts of translation, of translation as a transcoding scansion, intensify and render irreducible to competence.

Cureton's rule seeking, then, is justified by a view of reading as a teleological drive toward consensuality and the development of a single, most fitting account. But reading, for me, is both (a) an individual's progressive and changing relation with a text, and consequently, and particularly in relation to free verse, (b) a profoundly interrogative and restive one. (3) As a cognitivist, Cureton accepts "the strong forces of habituation and conventionalization that operate everywhere in cognitive response" (Rhythmic Phrasing 435); as a cognitivist, and for all the cognitivists' claims about embodiment (see, e.g., Stockwell 4-5 and 27), he argues that to view rhythm as physical and linguistic is to "eliminate the synthesizing cognitive powers of the perceiving subject" (Rhythmic Phrasing 98), and insists, instead, that rhythm is abstract, "a collection of cognitive schemata" (103); the task of cognition is "to process information; therefore, theories of cognition are basically theories of information processing. We use our theories of cognition to construct useful representations of the external world. A rhythmic structure is one of these useful representations" (Rhythmic Phrasing xiii). But for me, the very multidimensionality of rhythm is constituted by its multisensoriness, where, precisely, the experiential is always pressing to displace the represented.

What are the rhythmic structures identified by Cureton, and what do they represent? They are layered and embedded hierarchies of different levels of phrasal definition; that is, they are structures that can also be expressed in standard arboreal diagrams. What these structures are called upon to demonstrate are the synthesizing powers of cognition, its ability to harmonize different, imbricated rhythmic/phrasal shapes and to produce resolution, the molded representation of meaning. But, like Deleuze and Guattari (3-25), I reject the arboreal in favor of the rhizomatic, of proliferating and unpredictable connections, of clustered heterogeneities, of morphings, of the logic of the AND. (4) Cureton emphasizes that his work has experiential goals, that he wishes to shift the ground of verse analysis from the text-orientated to the reader-orientated (Rhythmic Phrasing xii). But the results do not bear this out; Cureton's analyses are retrospective, language-analytical, and carried out on an inertial, not-being-read text. And although he gives heed to textually motivated paralanguage, he gives no account of extra-textual vocal input (e.g., tempo, pausing, amplitude, tonality, changing intensities of enunciation). One might argue, too, that Cureton's aesthetic criteria (goals, anticipations, resolutions, and harmonies) are fossilized; Western tonal music is sifter all the model to which his findings are indebted and by which they are confirmed. (5)

So while Cureton's analysis urges the text toward a rhythmic consolidation, it is the business of translation to deconsolidate the text, to produce a reader in whom consensuality is no longer a goal, a reader let loose from the interpretive community into the phenomenology of his/her own reading, a reader in the act of constituting himself/herself as a reader of that text, a reader without teleological ambitions. What is the function of such a reader/translator? Clearly, it is not to try to reproduce the rhythmic structures he/she has encountered in the ST, nor to provide ready-made or automatic equivalents (e.g., alexandrine > iambic pentameter); rather, it is both to reconfigure and to multiply the rhythmic forces at work in the ST: to reconfigure in order to release unrealized expressive potentialities and to multiply in order to expand rhythm's sensory, experiential fullness. In the terms of Deleuze and Guattari, translation, like free verse, is an act of deterritorialization, a creative line of flight.

It is this refusal to concede to the given, to the already known, that makes free verse a natural medium for the translator, a position endorsed by Yves Bonnefoy:

Free verse is poetry, in its necessary freedom of expression and research. And one of the consequences of this [...] is that it is as such the only place where the contemporary poet can define and solve the problems he meets in his existential or cultural condition: for instance, in his relationship with the poets of the past and his task of translating them. (378)

The conclusion I draw from this position, and from the fact that my own model of translation insists on a polyglot reader, (6) is that there are no grounds for following the lineation of the ST either for reasons of fidelity (the polyglot reader has no need of fidelity) or for prosodic reasons. As far as these latter are concerned, I do not solely mean that the syllabic values, acoustic configurations, patterns of segmentation, syntactic shapes of a line in the ST (i.e., those elements that constitute it as a line) cannot be transferred to a line of similar length and ingredients in the target text; I also mean that while the line in regular verse can be confidently identified as a given metrico-rhythmic unit, as a participant in a given intonational and respirational field (the stanza), the free-verse line may be structurally opaque, the mere aggregate of its effects, which we may justify retrospectively, on expressive grounds, but in which we may discern no constructional principle. We might then suppose that no free-verse line is achieved, gets beyond the self-exploratory, is more than an ad hoc arrangement within the structure of the whole. And for that reason, as translators, we should feel free to adopt its improvisatory nature and its renewal of perceptual capacity.

An important part of this renewal is a resistance to the implicit imperatives of linearity, and more particularly to the seductions of the through-read, line of verse, that is, of the line read as a single, continuous span, often in a single breath, as a unit of pure consecutiveness. The metrico-rhythmic implications of through-reading are little considered, but include the following: (a) it aspires to confirm the metrical integrity of line; (b) it discourages effects of pausing, rupture, and fragmentation; (c) it confines pitch to a narrow range; (d) it confirms the overall intonational shape of stanza and/or rhyme scheme; and (e) it tends to even out durations (of syllables, measures, and lines). Simply put, through-reading minimizes or suppresses paralanguage, including rhythm in its multidimensionality.

Among other changes wrought on perceptual capacity by free verse is the qualitativisation of stress/accent. Accent is no longer a unit in the fulfillment of measure, but something that bends attitudes to language:

(a) As in Hopkins's sprung rhythm, it may be a conduit of thisness or haecceity, of instress; by stressing a syllable we ask it to stress us, to stress a responsiveness in us, to trigger a revelatory contact, an insight and a relationship (of wonder, awe, empathy, horror, etc.); what can we perceptually reach for through stress?

(b) It is the equivalent in the voice of pianistic touch--it expresses affect, mood, and atmosphere, which communicates itself to us and which we communicate to it; in shifting from a quantitative to a qualitative perspective, it shifts us from the givens of language to the auscultations of paralanguage.

(c) Correspondingly, it shifts us from a view of rhythm as cadence of utterance to a view of rhythm as the orchestration of all the expressive colorings (factors) of utterance.

In my model of translation--translating the phenomenology of reading rather than the interpretation of texts (7)--translation's function is, precisely, to translate always from the quantitative toward the qualitative. And this naturally entails treating translation as a performative kind of writing.

A further element in this qualitivisation of text concerns a shift in temporal perception. On the empty page, waiting to be written on, time is amorphous, unstriated, and unpulsed; into the empty page, regular verse writes striation, number, and measure. Any text is, potentially, temporally complex: we can practise upon it retrospections, pauses, variations of duration, and repetitions (paralanguage and parareading). But linear text, and particularly regular linear text, however we choose to use it, proposes a model of consistent forwardness, which introduces chronometricity, that is to say, the repeatability, in sequence, of isochronous units. We might say that regular verse has certain designs on time (patterns of apportionment, drives of periodic or periodized linearity) and that the reader is, as with through-reading, correspondingly dissuaded from cultivating any paralinguistic waywardness or idiosyncrasy. We might say: the linguistic world of the printed text belongs to the measured time of regulated succession, of the chronometric, of Chronos, and the paralinguistic world of the reader belongs to Aeon, "floating, nonpulsed time [...], the time of the pure event or of becoming, which articulates relative speeds and slownesses independently of the chronometric", characteristically expressed by the infinitive (Deleuze and Guattari 263). Furthermore, and self-evidently, one might add that the move from regular to free verse is, in the crudest sense, a change of loyalty from Chronos to Aeon.

I want to briefly enact some of the shifts in perceptual habit produced by free verse, in a translation into free verse of the perfectly regular third stanza of Lamartine's "Le Vallon" (19) (Meditations poetiques, 1820):
Voici l'etroit sentier//de l'obscure    4 > 2 > 3 > 3 or 2 > 4 > 3 > 3
Du flanc de ces coteaux//pendent des    2 > 4 > 1 > 5
  bois epais
Qui, courbant sur mon front//leur       3 > 3 > 2 > 4
  ombre entremelee,
Me couvrent tout entier//de silence     2 > 4 > 3 > 3
  et de paix.

(Note: --denotes the caesura, or prosodic juncture, which occurs in
the middle of the regular twelve-syllable alexandrine; the numerals
denote the number of syllables in each rhythmic measure.)

I take    x/
  the nar-    x/
      ow path of the dark washed   x/xx//
                     valley            Woods     /x   /
  close packed       hang   / /    /
        clinging     /x
                     to the sloping xx/x
        hillsides    /x

And stooping         cast   x/x     /

on me   x x                   their tight tangled shadows   x//x/x
           And wrap me                whole           x/x /
                                      in silence      x/x
                                      and      /
                                      in peace        x/

(Note: x indicates a weak syllable and / a strong, without further,
albeit desirable, refinements of degree.) (8)

Here, we might express Lamartine's hemistich measures as representations of perceptual perspectives: 3>3 provides moments of perceptual and temperamental stabilization; 2>4 represents expanding, aspirational vision (4 >2 is a counterpart vision of contraction and discouragement); 1>5 embodies a dramatic encounter (close-up) followed by self-distantiating encompassment. The line ending and the fixed caesura at the sixth syllable act as junctural punctuations, both scanning and managing metrical and syntactic (phrasal) articulations. In my free-verse translation, I wish to translate Lamartinian "values" into existential discoveries, to translate meanings into forms of direct knowledge, language as code into language as immanence, as coincident with experience. Correspondingly, then, we move toward a rhythm that is both unconstrained--it has no pattern to fulfill, it is a project--and an instrument of interrogation. By this latter I mean that it (re-)enters an enunciatory world in which questions of vocal touch are paramount, in which all elements of the paralinguistic are activated as instruments of exploration and keys to sense making. And the more the linear moves toward the tabular, the less we know how to read it; we have to read it as an apprenticeship, as a language coming into existence, a language whose signifiers provide no guarantees of known signifieds. (9) We do not draw on a knowledge so much as learn an appropriate knowledge by trial and error. And because reading has no linear impetus, no indicated horizon (vanishing point), so a time which is directional, homogeneous, made up of (notionally) isochronous intervals, is replaced by a time whose very continuity is composed of heterogeneous durations, elasticity, and digressiveness. The linear page is the page we pass through; the tabular page is the page we spend time in.

Among the consequent shifts toward the qualitative is a change of "posture" in parts of speech. For example, epithetism, the rhetorical use of adjectives, and in particular the use of epithetes de nature--as here "etroit sentier," "obscure vallee," and "bois epais"--are transformed by free verse into the cultivation of adjectival contingency, of epithetes de circonstance, and this encourages the translator to deconventionalize adjective-noun collocations. Correspondingly, other obvious dangers in epithetism--the risk of pleonasm and the cbeville in automatic collocations, a certain tendency toward prolixity and a concomitant loss of perceptual intensity--are removed.

In my translation, I want, further, to achieve five things: (a) to multiply the syncopational effect that occurs across the caesura in Lamartine's second line; this, for me, involves the creation of contiguous stresses by "de-compounding" (de-hyphenizing) adverbial/adjectival compounds ("dark washed," "close packed," and "tight tangled"); (b) to shift from a weak line-initial syllable to a strong line-initial syllable when it comes to the brooding and enveloping woods; (c) to destress the first person ("I," "me" [bis]) so that the woods, and the rhythms they seem to generate, have a more suffusive agency (expressed also in the repeated participial endings); (d) to insist on the qualitative value of vocal touch by ensuring that the three instances of "and" have different accentual/pronunciational values--"And"(1.9)=/aend/,"And"(1.11)=/end/,"and"(1.13)=/aend/--achieved by spacing and lineation (capitalization is motivated by the lineation of the ST); these variations express a modulation from imperiousness, through solicitude, to resolution; (e) to create a lullaby effect in the rocking motion of the amphibrach (x/x), (10) which appears from line 9 onward. (11)

Free verse, like translation, is a mode of consciousness neither to be possessed nor to be dispossessed of; it is, rather, a medium of becoming other, of formal morphing and metamorphosis. Free verse, like translation, envisages a subjectivity only to imply the transferability or multiplication of that subjectivity so that the medium is, as it were, inhabited by a subject who is the instrument of his/her own transitions or polymorphousness. Rhythm, as we have posited it, is the mediator both of the inhabitation and of the polymorphousness, since rhythm is exploration and proliferation of a text's being, that is, the agent of a text's becoming. At its outset, at least in the French context, free verse claimed its justification in its being the inimitable "chant profond" of the poet: "tout ame est un noeud rythmique" (Mallarme 64) [every soul is a rhythmic node]; but it is in the nature of that rhythmic node or nexus to be multidimensional and shifting, to be the dynamic of experiential time (duree), and of experiential passage to new configurations of consciousness.

To explore these displacements of consciousness in (free-verse) translation, I want briefly to consider a French translation, by Jean-Yves Masson (Bensimon 1421), of a stanza from Thomas Kinsella's "Finistere" (1972):
8     And whose excited blood was that           x / x / x / x /

10    fumbling our movements? Whose ghostly      / xx / x/ / x / x

10    tunnelling our thoughts full of passages   / xxx // x / xx

10    smelling of death and clay and faint       /xx/ x / x // x

7     and great stones in the darkness?          x// xx / x (11.18-22)

14    Et qui etait celui dont le sang echauffe   6 > 3 > 3 > 2

15    malhabiles nos mouvements? De quelle       3 > 5 > 4 > 3
      spectre la faim

14    forait-elle dans nos pensees               3 > 5 > 3 > 3
      d'innombrables passages,

16    avec cette odeur de mort, d'argile, de     5 > 2 > 3' > 3 > 3
      metaux sans couleur

12    et de pierres geantes dans l'obscurite?    3 > 3 > 6

(Note: The apostrophe in the syllabic tabulation indicates a coupe
lyrique [measure/boundary after the word/terminal mute e: "/d'argile/
"] rather than a more usual coupe enjambante [measure/boundary before
the word/terminal mute e: "/d'argi/le"]; a less traditional,
intensive, punctilious reading might give 6>6>2/3>3>3>3/3>4>6/7>2>6/
5>5, that is, in syllabic numbers 14/12/13/15/10 [in practising
apocope and syncope, I have still counted the e's after double and
triple consonants ("spectre", "innombrables")]).

As one passes from one language to another, a certain reshuffling of elements, weights, and intensities takes place, some because of linguistic incompatibilities--to think of these as untranslatabilities is to think, perversely, of impoverishment and resistance, rather than of enrichment by diversification, by facilitation of transformation--some because of the translator's style of mind. It is these reshufflings that translation positively pursues, not to try to constrain them, or strait-jacket them, in the interests of "fidelity", but because like itself, free verse has it in its nature to imagine itself as other, not only because the reader is free and the paralinguistic proclivities of each reader are differently organized and challenged by a text, but also because, as we have said, free verse, like translation, is a site of creative encounter and creative transition. Free verse may have publicized itself in its early years as an intensification of subjectivity, as the inimitable record of an individual's spiritual autobiography; but free verse is an invitation to the multiplication of subjectivities, to its own infinite rewritings, to its own constant vocal reorganization, and to the redisposition of its energies.

Masson's French version fills out Kinsella's ellipses and resolves some of the perceptual indeterminacies that those ellipses generate so that the verse has a more measured pacing, a fuller rhythmic swell; inevitably, perhaps, Kinsella's rougher, more collisional thinking gives way to Masson's rhetorical, even Biblical, period. After the opening iambic line, the movement of Kinsella's verse is more turbulent, restive, with double-stress syncopations and meandering weak syllables. Masson's account, on the other hand, seems to flirt with regularities, the 3>3 pairings of measure, the 8//6 and 6//6 divisions of the third and fifth lines, and this creates a different overall respiration, a different image of the forces at work in this encounter with the sea.

For my own version, I have turned in another direction, that of a redisposition of the stanza around a medial axis (Mittelachse):
   et qui etait celui
   dont le sang
   nos gestes
   dans nos pensees
   d'innombrables galeries
   et les rochers gigantesques

The medial axis is important in that it does away with margins. Margins are a taking possession of utterance: the margin is the sign of a consciousness gathering itself, the sign of purpose and authority. The margin testifies to the will to create a verse line, perhaps a metre. But Kinsella speaks here of a consciousness that is not so much something one exercises, as something by which one is inhabited, possessed, an alien occupation. And the medial axis is precisely like the sinking of consciousness into the center of experience, a consciousness shorn of identity, expanding outward in a series of impulses, which have the look of lines. But these are not lines, since their beginnings and endings are the accidental result of their pivoting around an invisible central spine; they are, rather, verbal radiations and gravitations. This is a structure that expands and progresses from the inside, can indeed progress indefinitely with the free embedding of new words, new perceptions. And because of its symmetrical layout, this medial-axis verse is bound to suggest a potential calligram, a carmen figuratum, or a Rorschach test. With this sense of an activity, of a hunger, exerting itself as if from a cleft in the middle of the paper, it is not surprising that Mittelachse verse should attract processes of agglutination and compounding, of morphemes and lexemes fusing together, so that scriptio continua seems an almost natural consequence; I have yielded to that temptation here and there.

The Mittelachse layout might look like a return to linear time (Chronos), expressed now as much vertically as horizontally. But as we have suggested, these verbal spans are not so much lines that one reads in sequence, each, in turn, from beginning to end; rather, they constitute a passage through constantly modulating verbal durations, durations of an unnamed consciousness, durations generated by different verbal forces and perceptual speeds and experiential intensities. An enumeration of the syllabic values of each segment--6>3>3>5>2>5(3>2)>2>4>7(3>4)>4>1>2> 1>6(3>3)>7(4>3)>1>4--is misleading because it speaks of successions of units from left to right rather than of different degrees of outward expansion from a center and it seems to map organizing recurrences of measure, uniformly perceived. But these recurrences are inevitable, and the "measures" are but a field of lexico-rhythmic energies, which are made manifest as relative speeds, amplitudes, enunciatory modes, perceptual "styles" and tones, proximities and distances, in the variety of fonts (bold, italic, capitals) and punctuations. (12)

The proto-tabular and tabular text, then, entails the destruction of the mediating subject in favor of a dispersal of subjectivities; subjecthood is "dis-assigned," transformed into an availability of subject positions, inhabitable spaces of subjective consciousness, where even that consciousness is vulnerable to diversification. This tendency naturally aligns free verse with collage, with the "poeme-conversation" as developed by Apollinaire. Free verse is a permeable medium, capable of constant self-adjustment, which can accommodate itself to messages from every point in time and space, a medium in which the continuum of consciousness can be constituted by a series of imbricated interruptions, or utterances at tangents to each other, opening on to other worlds. And it is in Apollinaire's verse, and more particularly in a translation of lines 7-15 of his "Les soupirs du servant de Dakar" [The Sighs of the Gunner from Dakar] (235-36) (Calligrammes, 1918), that I want to pursue the polyphonic effects, not only of collage, but of a purely expressive punctuation:
   Je revois mon pere qui se battit
   Contre les Achantis
   Au service des Anglais
   Je revois ma soeur au rire en folie
   Aux seins durs comme des obus
   Et je revois
   Ma mere la sorciere qui seule du village
   Meprisait le sel
   Piler le millet dans un mortier

One might notice immediately the restless play of the four margins: (13) it is (a) as if the speaker cannot establish a steady speaking position, a uniform threshold of consciousness and (b) as if the family itself has wandering, ill-defined relational outlines and values, which may momentarily "come into line," but which otherwise belong to a mobile ethical-perceptual field. Correspondingly, the lines oscillate between the pair and the impair, the well-formed (5//5 decasyllable [first and fourth lines], 3>5 octosyllable [fifth line]) and the indeterminate. My purpose, in translating these lines, is to translate and further exteriorize, or show, this rhythm of wandering margins, and its poly-perspectival multilayering of consciousness, to extend its significance beyond the confines of the mind of the gunner and of this poem, by means of interjective collage and by distinctive yet promiscuous punctuations: (14)
I see;
   my fa.ther   (ils coupent les 'cabeches')   who.enlisted with;
                                                the "English"
                fought;         (({(et font provision d'oreilles)
      the Ashantis              [whose will.was be;st served]]]
   my sis.ter; too;       {skirmishers [...] founded in 1857})
                   I see        ({WWI [...] 30,000 dead}
                 her luna.tic; laughter;
  and breasts; {as well as prisoners of war}]] as hard.   as arm.our-
(([did he caress.them; too])] and my moth;er.
                                   the witch.    the only;
one in the village
                      to spurn; salt [and what.of your; brother]}}}]
       ((le fusil du tirailleur senegalais n'est pas un penis))}}})
                pounding;        {with distinction at Ypres and
                      ([[(mais veritablement un fusil Lebel 1916){}
{[{noted for high morale}]}          millet;
       (((l'Antillais regne sur toute cette negraille)))}}}}))

What are the elements of this collage? A voice that speaks from the poem's earlier versions ([]); (15) the Wikipedia history of the Senegalese tirailleurs ({}); the Senegalese seen from another colonial viewpoint, the Antillean, in the words of Frantz Fanon's Peau noire, masques blancs (()). These voices listen to each other with varying degrees of attention and interweave with the gunner's "tribal" memories. They are, in effect, the voices of the reader, struggling for predominance perhaps, the voices of the reader's other reading, infiltrating the text, not as knowing citations, or complicating references, so much as spontaneous associations, triggered textual memories, that is, the "translations" that are, willy-nilly, implicated in any act of reading. The intervocal demands its own niche in the complex rhythmic fabric.

This particular act of reading also responds to text by generating a punctuation of visual paralanguage, which communicates to the voice existential nuancing rather than information about syntactic structures. It is as if punctuation might provide textual experience with a deictic or indexical value, acting as the stigmata of inner events (see Szendy 9-21), at the same time as this experiential specificity, the deictic, operates as a shifter, transferable across changing subject positions. Punctuation is an instantiating agent of verbal rhythm and has a rhythm of its own. In my usage, punctuation is not a retrospective tool of analysis, disambiguating that which threatens to be unintelligible, but a secretion of tonalities, momentums, strata of consciousness, immanent in the text. And this is what punctuation must be when it works with the unfinished: a scansion of the emergent, of forces ongoingly at work, rather than of meanings proposed. My punctuational vocabulary is, like the collaged interruptions, also intertextual, reading's enrichment by reading: it develops the semicolon as the passe-partout punctuation of the continuum of consciousness in Edouard Dujardin's interior monologue Les Lauriers sont coupes (1887); the full stop as the unyielding, the peremptory, or the nonnegotiable, in Ted Hughes's translation (1998) of Racine's Phedre; the bracket as assimilative embedding, at different depths (up to five levels), of digression, aside, extraneous extension, in Raymond Roussel's Nouvelles Impressions dAfrique (1932); and it permits intralexical punctuation as in the work of E. E. Cummings. The brackets, too, have their own languages: [] = the voice of textual surveillance, self-dissociative, glossing or probing; () = a voice more integrated into the text, more impulsive, more tonally various, and more subversive perhaps; {} = the voice with least textual pedigree, least communicative impulse, and more haphazard in what it relates. This punctuational accompaniment might, of course, be completely different. In these various ways, reading becomes a typographically motivated hearing-in-order-to-speak, a hearing so complex that only a sequence of German prefixes might do it justice (heraushoren, hineinhoren, zuruckhoren, vorhoren, hinterhoren, etc.).

Textual performance, then, is perhaps less to do with parole seen as a transformation generated out of a langue, than with langage, that is, the interlingual or multilingual medium in which translation does its business. Even if we ever thought that langue was an innate native competence, which we naturally grow into, langage, which expands and deepens our awareness of langue, must ever be learned and relearned. It is the multidimensionality of rhythm that allows a langue to begin to exceed itself, to multiply itself as langage, and free verse is what, through its varied performances of paginal space, allows rhythm to extend itself in this way. It is not specifically free verse's abandonment of national cultural forms and genres that makes it an international language; it is, rather, what it releases as langage through rhythmic multidimensionality and performative typographical dispositions. And this is what makes translation, rhythm, and free verse such natural bedfellows. Translation, like the scansion of free verse, asks of a text not what it is, but what it can become. No single account of rhythm can exhaust the potential of an ST, or of a free-verse poem, to express itself differently. Rhythm is also, in translation as in free verse, an experimentation with the multiplicities of self, or with the multiplicity of selves, where that self, or those selves, are the reader.


Apollinaire, Guillaume. OEuvres poetiques. Ed. Marcel Adema and Michel Decaudin. Paris: Gallimard, 1965. Print.

Attridge, Derek. Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. Print.

Bensimon, Paul, et al.. Anthologie bilingue de la poesie anglaise. Paris: Gallimard, 2005. Print.

Benveniste, Emile. Problems in General Linguistics. Trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek. Coral Gables: U of Miami P, 1971. Print.

Bonnefoy, Yves. "On the Translation of Form in Poetry." World Literature Today 53.3 (1979): 374-79. Print.

Cureton, Richard D. "Rhythm: A Multilevel Analysis." Style 19.2 (1985): 242-57. Print.

--. Rhythmic Phrasing in English Verse. London: Longman, 1992. Print.

--. "Meter and Metrical Reading in Temporal Poetics." Thinking Verse 2 (2012): 112-37. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. London: Athlone, 1988. Print.

Eliot, T.S. To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings. London: Faber and Faber, 1978. Print.

Kirby-Smith, H.K. The Origins of Free Verse. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996. Print.

Lamartine, Alphonse de. CEuvres poetiques. Ed. Marius-Fran^ois Guyard. Paris: Gallimard, 1963. Print.

Lowes, John Livingston. Convention and Revolt in Poetry. 1st pub. 1919. London: Constable, 1930. Print.

Mallarme, Stephane. OEuvres completes II. Ed. Bertrand Marchal. Paris: Gallimard, 2003. Print.

Peureux, Guillaume. La Fabrique du vers. Paris: Seuil, 2009. Print.

Scott, Clive. Vers Libre: The Emergence of Free Verse in France 1886-1914. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Print.

--. Translating the Perception of Text: Literary Translation and Phenomenology. Oxford: Legenda, 2012. Print.

--. Literary Translation and the Rediscovery of Reading. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print.

Scully, James. "Line Break." The Line in Postmodern Poetry. Ed. Robert Frank and Henry Sayre. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1988. 97-131. Print.

Silkin, Jon. The Life of Metrical and Free Verse in Twentieth-Century Poetry. London: Macmillan, 1997. Print.

Steele, Timothy. Missing Measures: Modern Poetry and the Revolt against Meter. Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P, 1990. Print.

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Szendy, Peter. A coup de points: La Ponctuation comme experience. Paris: Minuit, 2013. Print.

Clive Scott



(1.) To call free verse "unmetrical" or "nonmetrical" is to assume that it no longer pursues a sustained metricity. But such a view continues to treat rhythm both quantitatively and as a pattern of stress/accent and syllable (see Attridge 177-80). It allows that "the ghost of some simple metre" may "lurk behind the arras in even the 'freest' verse" (Eliot 187) or may declare itself intermittently (e.g., leitmotivically). The demetrified, on the other hand, considers that any repeated patterns of stress/accent have no metrical (as opposed to experiential/existential) significance, that stress/accent and syllable thus released from the metrical are qualitative, and that, as we have said, rhythm thus released from the monopoly of stress/accent and syllable is multidimensional and concerns paralinguistic elements that lie outside the text, in the reader (e.g., tempo, amplitude, pausing, intonation), as much as those that are indicated within the text.

(2.) Cureton's concession to variability in readerly perception is only grudging: "In some cases grouping relations are clear, but in most cases they are somewhat blurred or ambiguous, even where readers are giving the text the same general 'reading'. While we must grant this variability, we must nevertheless recognize that grouping responses can be remarkably stable across readers as well" (Rhythmic Phrasing 140).

(3.) The definition of rhythm that I cleave to is that provided by Benveniste in his pursuit of the true origins of "ruthmos," to wit: "form in the instant that it is assumed by what is moving, mobile and fluid, form that has no organic consistency; it fits the pattern of a fluid element, of a letter arbitrarily modelled, of a robe arranged entirely as one wishes, of a particular disposition of character or mood. It is form improvised, momentary, changeable." Benveniste adds that it is easy to understand that "ruthmos" was the most suitable term for describing "'dispositions' and 'configurations' without fixity or natural necessity and arising from an arrangement which is always subject to change" (286). Accordingly, I do not subscribe to the twist given to the term by Plato (see Benveniste 286-87), by which rhythm becomes something ordered, numerically regulated, in a pattern of alternation. As will also be apparent, I have found the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari fruitful to my purpose.

(4.) In our desire to establish translation, and indeed rhythm, as a multilingual, translingual, ramifying event, as an affair of langage (inclusive, heterogeneous medium) rather than langue (national language system), we should cite the following manifestation of the rhizomatic: "A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages. There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogeneous linguistic community. Language is, in Weinreich's words, 'an essentially heterogeneous reality'" (Deleuze and Guattari 7).

(5.) "The claim my argument suggests is that the most adequate and critically productive theory of rhythm in poetry is not just loosely parallel to the most respected and revealing theory of rhythm in Western tonal music. These theories are one and the same" (Rhythmic Phrasing 434-35). It should be added that, in his plans for a new book (A Temporal Theory of Poetic Rhythm) (, Cureton outlines his intention to include consideration of atonal music. In a recent article (2012), he returns to the rhythmic intricacies of metre, of "beating," where he proposes twenty-eight metrical preference rules.

(6.) For a justification of translation for the polyglot, rather than monoglot, reader, see Scott, Translating the Perception of Text, 15-17.

(7.) As James Scully most aptly puts it: "Consequently, translation is not translation of a thing but of a communication, of the charged air, between text and reader. Or, to rephrase the issue, the translation is of the reader inscribed in the text" (99).

(8.) I realize that, in providing this notation, I am in danger of undermining my own argument and of implying that the metrico-rhythmic basis of rhythm in free verse remains paramount. It certainly remains important, but, as explained, (a) it is not to be understood as the restoration of a metricality, but as a demetrified metrics, and (b) it is to be urgently supplemented by other, paralinguistic (including visual cues) factors of rhythmicity. Throughout the article, these tabulations are merely points of departure.

(9.) It might be argued that texts are inevitably linear, that however much they might be "stepped," fragmented, and redistributed, the words must be read in a certain order, one after the other. There are perhaps two things to be said. First, text laid out in lines has a certain discursivity, a certain independence of any particular paginal disposition, while the tabular text is constituted as text only by its paginal disposition and thus tends to have a non-discursive expressivity deriving largely from visual cues. Second, and consequently, as suggested here, the reading of the tabular is more experimental, and indeed more paralinguistically informed, as more options in relation to grouping, durations, pausing, style of enunciation, and so on have to be entertained.

(10.) Just to reiterate, the amphibrach here is not a metrical foot but a rhythmic movement.

(11.) One might wonder, at the close of this analysis, whether the same effects might not be achieved by an intralinguistic translation. This is to overlook, of course, the fundamental task of interlinguistic translation, to wit, to extend, by refraction, the ST's operational and performative capacities across new cultural spaces and times. Interlinguistic translation creates wider-ranging futures in a text than does intralinguistic translation, which is not, however, to say that intralinguistic translation should not play a much larger part in the translational ethos than it does at present (see Scott, Literary Translation, Chapters 1-4).

(12.) These "measures" are in fact like a series of Aeon-related infinitives, rather than chronometric tenses.

(13.) The first version of the poem, sent in a letter to Lou [Louise de Coligny-Chatillon] without accompanying comments or explanations, on 11 June 1915, had only one margin for these lines, and only two throughout the poem.

(14.) This is apparently to translate Apollinaire into a foreign self: he abandoned the use of punctuation in his verse, from the moment he famously removed it from the proofs of his first collection, Alcools (1913). He justified this decision, in a letter to Henri Martineau (19 July 1913), by observing that rhythm and lineation were the true punctuation, and that there was no need of another (1040). Apollinaire's remark perhaps supposes a single voice. My punctuation is designed to capture a polyvocality, both 0/voices and in the voice.

(15.) The variants in the first two versions (letter to Lou, the polygraphed pamphlet Case d'Armons [pub. 17 June 1915]) concern principally lineation and further sexual references: the father caressing the sister's breasts, the brother cradling his "superb manhood as if cradling a small child."
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