thinking and writing about…
…what you are reading, or hearing, or witnessing, is totally irresponsible and a mediocre translation of the poem from earlier, called 'Bright Sun In The Head Of The Girls'. And then at the end of the line I said 'sue me' in Japanese, which caused a giggle. It is only after the mediocre translator gives up on translating that anything of value ever happens.
Between one country and another lies a treacherous zone which migrants like me think of as the start of home. Crossing this zone is to enjoy the dangers of frontiers, with the associated checkpoints and controls, and the thrill of being caught out unawares.
Translating such zones from that experiential medium into the medium of words is an act of translation, sometimes an attempt at tracing or copying, sometimes a rubbing to catch the textures. It is an act of fixing individual and unique timespaces into persistence through many timespaces in a form of memory we call words. Different approaches to this task require different language.
Of course, every country has a degree of separation. Birds might develop their own style of beak to meet the requirements of their native habitats. People might eat differently, even speak differently, with unique sets of sounds, rhythms, combining their utterances in different formats. They might even devise scripts structured in completely different ways. Between the sounds and the scripts lies a turbulent zone.
When SOME GIRLS, about ten in number (if we assume no unique denotation is shared by several girls) WALK INTO THE COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM, I guess they have some familiarity with that country. I cannot assume I do. I hope that, when someone says ‘Let us describe…’ that I will understand the words they use. I might not, or I might not and think I do, but I must go ahead and assume ‘the words I understand in the sequences that I understand’ I have understood.
I am assuming that THE COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM is a single, unique, country. This might not be the case. Although identical words are used, there is the possibility of multiple meanings. The work may become a palimpsest of itself.
When SOME GIRLS stop making sense and become surreal, I must investigate whether the meaning I have understood is correct or the situation is outside my (possibly virtual) experience so I need some initiation into context, or I need to move my language. Novelty, error, triangulation or translation are all present as SOME GIRLS WALK to help my passage INTO THE COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM.
Novelty requires imagination, even suspension of disbelief and interpretation. I take the words and construct the reality from those words. Sometimes I think this is sufficient. But SOME GIRLS do not have these ‘describing words’ which I think of as nouns or ‘names’ so have devised labels, Girl A, Girl B, Girl C, to act as proxies.
It is difficult to find certainty within novelty. Error I cam elimimate by imvestigatimg substitutioms. I may realise that, on the balance of probabilities, the errors in the preceding sentence may be caused by hitting an adjacent key by mistake. Or some other strategy might be possible, maybe even just guessing. I rely on experience from the country I am from to crosscheck THE COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM. I look for corresponding works to give context, hoping that they offer reflections of the overwriting text.
Moving through the pages requires translation in a mathematical sense, a movement from one place to another using a set of rules, moving from page to page, moving internally from marginal notes to main body text, from word to word, letter to letter, separating black script from white space. Translation from one language to another, sharing common symbols, but also translation from different structures, perhaps between phonemes and ideograms.
I must not neglect translation across the page. Navigation in the conventional literary sense is across the page, word by word, then down the page, line by line. But, less conventionally, extended white space is sometimes added within the line; ‘footnotes’, which refer to other parts of the book, are included at the side of the page; the ‘Selected Chronology and Notes’ is not included in my volume. Navigation, like translation, is not always straightforward, becoming even more splintered when using ‘Map’.
And SOME GIRLS must come from somewhere else to WALK INTO THE COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM. They are translating themselves from place to word, exploring the novel and traditional, overwriting the past and tumbling towards a yet to come. They invite me to join them, to walk into the country I am from. Walking this zone is to enjoy the dangers of frontiers, with the associated checkpoints and controls, and the thrill of being caught out unawares.
Writers note: My country is not yours, just as no particle of us can share the same spacetime.
A lesson for any writer, implicit throughout this work, is that translations are not simply commutative. What I write, what I think I write and what is read by others might not be congruent, might even be most probably not.
 From Sawako Nakayasu poem ‘Bright Sun In The Head Of The Girls’, SOME GIRLS WALK INTO THE COUNTRY THEY ARE FROM (Wave Books, 2020), 61.