Are words the same as meaning? Does the form in which you are writing influence the content of what you write? Here’s a game that explores the way form and word choice might influence meaning. For one or many players. Join in!
Rules of the Game:
- Rewrite a sentence or passage from the Declaration of Independence into a series of linked 17-syllable verses that, like haiku, follow a 5-7-5 sequence of syllables to the line.
- The text of the Declaration: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
- Try to stay close to the original meaning, but be open to re-interpretation, if the new form requires it.
- Must reference nature and the seasons
- Less is more
- Stop when you have written an ending
- Translate what you have written back into more straightforward prose
- Post the poem, the prose translation, and the original passage, in that order.
In the bright summer
Of human events
We dissolve our connections
Turn cold our eyes to
Take a place at the wellspring
Of power on Earth
We respect others
Enough to clothe our action
In modest Nature
Don’t argue with us
We are as good as you are
God tells us this. Splash!
The poem, restored to prose:
Now, in the harsh, dry reckoning of human events, we dissolve the bonds that have heretofore tied us to others and, eschewing subservience toward those from whom we have split, sit with them at the spot from which power emerges and men seize it. Out of respect to those with whom we are now competing, rather than serving, we assert that there is a higher law to which we conform, and a Deity who has given us the same rights that they claim.
The original text:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
One thought on “Prose-to-Poetry Game”
The act of translating illuminates the original text in ways that are often surprising. It forces the translator to think about meaning and intention in the source material in a way that’s focused and intimate. It forces them to do gymnastics to preserve or recreate subtleties and nuances. I love this game because it gives anyone access to that act, even if they’re not bilingual.