Mouth: Eats Color
Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-Translations, & Originals
by Sawako Nakayasu with Chika Sagawa
Factorial Press, 2011
90 pages / $14 Buy from Amazon
Sawako Nakayasu’s Mouth: Eats Color is enthusiastic. It’s enthusiastic about the plural nature of meaning, about disavowing loyalty to any single language, about the act of translation as a kind of breakage. Her own poetry which often has the quality of being exuberant but measured, folds into this new book of translations as if she is having a conversation with not only Chika Sagawa but the work itself as a separately conscious entity. Or perhaps more accurately the book is in the act of collapsing several conversations, continually re-engaging the same subject on various planes.
The collection tests the flexibility of language and Sawako Nakayasu isn’t particularly gentle about it. But being gentle is for writing tributes and Mouth: Eats Color is more of an elongation, a circular extension of the text. And while she’s very polite, there’s muscle behind the way she translates, assembles, dissembles, resembles. “Promenade,” a poem repeatedly translated in Mouth: Eats Color changes its first line from “Seasons change their gloves” to “Season bag” to “Seasonal gloves” to “Seasons change their gloves,” every variation slipping easily into the next until they stop reading like re-translations of the same poem so much as chorus. The flow between her poems and Chika Sagawa’s poems offers up questions of where translation ends and collaboration begins, or if the act of translation is even possible—posits that even if content were able to sync perfectly between two completely different languages it might not survive the desire to insert authorial perspective. The collection asks that the reader consider the point when a translation deviates from the original just enough to become an entirely new work and offers up no answers except to say that the authenticity of a poem never mattered in the first place.
January 6th, 2012 / 1:00 am