Poetry Archives Bio

And could you?

August 4, 2013

This is my translation of «А вы могли бы?» by Владимир Маяковский [Vladimir Mayakovsky]. Owing to the vagaries of modernist verse, I have produced two versions. Although both preserve the metre of the original poem perfectly, the first is more expressionist and the second is more precise.

To Rose Guenther and Rod Moody-Corbett
Version 1

At once—paint splashed from flagon's belly—
I smeared the map of daily motion;
I showed atop a dish of jelly
The slanted jowls of the ocean.
Upon the tin scales of a sturgeon
I calls of brand-new lips compute.
And you
could you play
like a surgeon
a nocturne on a drainpipe flute?

Version 2

I smeared at once the map of boredom
By splashing colours with a motion;
I showed atop a dish of aspic
The slanted jowls of the ocean.
Within the tin scales of the fishes
I calls of novel lips compute.
could you play
a nocturne's wishes
upon the troughs of drainpipe flutes?