Nursery Rhymes Gone Wrong in Translation


Pilot Johann the Carousel Horse, Johannes Goransson
(151pp,  not priced, Fairy Tale Review Press)


Johann Goransson is a Swede who has lived in America for many years. He co-edits a small press and translates Swedish poetry. The Fairy Tale Press 'is dedicated to helping raise public awareness of the literary and cultural influence of fairy tales'. It also 'seeks to improve the critical understanding of new works sewn from fairy tales, and revisit old tales across borders and time'.

Johann the carousel horse is the poet's navigator in a surreal flight. The eponymous twelve page section concludes Pilot
. Here is the first (untitled) poem:

               Some people want to make
               a saint out of me
               I prefer something more
               elegant
               something like a victim
               but without the sound

Four of the eleven poems in this section are in Swedish so the borders crossed are linguistic. Altogether there are about forty texts in Swedish. I don't know the language but they seem to be parallel poems rather than translations, if you can ever translate a poem!

Read Pilot
fast. Remember Artaud, Dada and Andre Breton. The foreword quotes from Breton: 'There are fairy tales to be written for adults, fairy tales almost blue'.
You'll soon notice recurring words, e.g. body, white, chalk, shell, shovel, camera, pearls, parasite. Forget grammar rules. Nouns are used as verbs, e.g. girls, anorexed. There are sound improvisations like this:

                 softly to suit
                 the new fit
                 the out-fit, in-fit
                 fit-mouth       ('Aerial view')

or this:

                tell us to sound out
                insects and outsects
                in a looted museum
                the echo told us
                about vocal chords  ('At the plug show:')

One recurring word is exocity. This is a term in particle physics. Exotic matter is any material difficult to produce, like metallic hydrogen, material which violates one or more of the classic conditions or is not made of baryonic particles, e.g. negative mass, or repelled by gravity instead of attracted. It is used in speculative theories like the construction of worm holes, much favoured in science fiction. So maybe what we have here is the physics of the absurd or Zen physics. Exocity also improvises into retro-city and exo-skeleton.

The book has a blue cover. It features a Picasso line drawing from 1916 for the ballet Parade
. Two naked men together form a horse. One wears a mask, the other a tail.

Pilot
is an assemblage of particles. The recurring words could have come from a quarry text, perhaps a Swedish fairy tale about the pearls of Stockholm, or not! Either way it's a challenge for the reader adventurous enough to persevere and enjoy the puzzle. Lots of space on the pages. Lots of intriguing possibilities.

     Geoff Sutton 2008