lost in translation

it took me twenty four hours [well, three days] to finally decide on a title for this piece… which translates timewise as eight hours per word, or one hundred and two minutes per letter, four hours per vowel, three hours per consonant.

titling art [paintings] can be a tricky and solitary task – well, if i could say it in words…

i also had to write some other words to go with the title words. i thought about it all day on sunday. some thoughts completely take over your headspace, the more you try to refine them the less sense they seem to make. incorrigible.

a weekend lost in my own world of translation. wordblock. grasping at floating fragments of thoughts, ideas, words, sounds, meanings, coaxing them out of retreat, trying to make them perfect…

the ’show & tell’ with Artworks was helpful, and always fascinating and exciting to see what the other artists have done. it was suggested i read some Pablo Neruda poetry, which subsequently got me thinking about the issues in reading poems in translation.

i found this archived article, The Poetry of Neruda [october 1974] on The New York Review of Books website an interesting read.

Para que tú me oigas
mis palabras
se adelgazan a veces
como las huellas de las gaviotas en las playas.

So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

that’s the beginning of the poem Para que tú me oigas [So that You Will Hear Me] by Pablo Neruda, translation by W S Merwin in ‘Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair’ [Penguin Classics 2004]

* interestingly, Google Translate translated it as this:

For you to hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.


  1. Posted July 10, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Spooky! I have been reading Neruda this week and it is inspiring a new project. I’ve been reading some of the Odes. Thank you for the article link.

    I find titling one of the hardest things too. I comfort myself with this Hopper quote, ‘ If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.’ ;o)

    Best wishes.

  2. Jazz
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    hi Lisa

    i was thinking of the “say it in words” quote when i wrote this, but couldn’t recall which artist/painter had originally said it… was going to look it up on Google.

    many thanks!