Two sections from Ipocalisse

by Nanni Balestrini

Translated by Carla Billitteri and Martin Spinelli


BALE04.01 and RIFT04.01 are copyright (c) 1995. See below for full notice. Click here for EPC HOTLIST

Carla Billitteri
Notes on translating
January 1995

I. Partage of Realities: A Logic of Infra-modal Destinerrance

Derrida: "the . . . task of the translator--his madness, his
agony, the aporias he confronts--proceeds away from some initial
strangeness, from the gap already opened in the idiom of the
original text." This gap of sense already present in the text of
origin and which determines the different aporias of translating--
this is part of what I'd like to call "partage of realities", the
sharing of a binding division of meaning and sense--a crucial
compromise that can be found in the piece translated, complicated
reflection of the relation between the act of translating and the
singular idiocy the translator brings to the task--and permanent
sign of the semantic/phonic discontinuities between languages.

What is it then the madness that binds me to this task.

In translating my first instinct--my first gesture--is one
of pleasure--the pleasure of playing a stammering game of
language in the moulding and sinking (the untranslatable
"fondersi e affondarsi") of each single syllable into its new
sense--in the rounding and singing of each preposition into a new
tongue of fusion in which each respective language meets the
other transcending its internal and external boundaries.

This is the logic of infra-modal translation--a modality
marked by a movement of destinerrance (a term I borrow from John
P. Leavey)--a semantic and phonetic errancy sustained as if by
its destination.

Destinerrance (errancy as destination and errancy of
destination) is the nomadic search for a third sense between two
languages--a sense that finally floats away, in the translated
piece, as Benjamin's vessel, indifferently adrift between two

Indifferent to--yet belonging to--both languages, the sense
of the translation responds to the singular category of
"whatever" (LAT.: quod libet ITAL.: qualunque)--whereas the
"common form" engendered by the "idiocy" of the "whatever" would
thus be the finished translation. Agamben:

     It is from the hundred idiosyncracies that characterize
     my way of writing the letter P or of pronouncing this
     phoneme that its common form is engendered. Common and
     proper, genus and individual are only two slopes
     dropping down from either side of the watershed of
     whatever . . . and precisely this is the idiocy, in
     other words, the singularity of the whatever.

II. Nanni Balestrini's Ipocalisse

Working with Martin Spinelli on the use of pronouns and
monosyllabic prepositions in Balestrini's Ipocalisse --I've been
often reminded of Lacoue-Labarthe's words on the work of
translation, consisting, as he says, in "repeating the unuttered
of . . . [the] text's very utterance". Indeed in translating these
infra-modal sonnets we confronted a poetics that creates
unuttered utterances, a poetics that--cutting or breaking the
sentence up in its minutest components (lexemes, morphemes,
syllables, phonemes)--leaves the individual pieces loose in the
text, free agencies of meaning on the brink of the line.

Such concrete operations of "cutting", eating away, eroding
the grounds of ordinary--full--signification, are characteristic
of much of Nanni Balestrini's poetry, but in _Ipocalisse_ the
research of the sense of each line against the obtuse force of
ordinary sentences constructs a lyrical universe that bears the
fragile fascination of a surreal fairy tale--a story of imaginary
leaps outside the boundaries of the given.


Giorgio Agamben. The Coming Community.

Jacques Derrida. "Desistance", introduction to Typography.

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Typography.

John P. Leavey, Jr. "Destinerrance" in Deconstruction and Philosophy.

Nanni Balestrini

Translated by Carla Billiteri and Martin Spinelli

(Two sections from Ipocalisse (49 Sonetti 1980-1983) Milano: Libri Scheiwiller, 1986)

Sommerbird, 22-28

little is left
the corner and the arm
glance and blue
in the fast glass
some steps
hot climbing
a bit of wind
flapping or multicolored
the together
in the reflex

flying away
he parts slowly
it doesn't mean anymore
and then he throws himself
another time distant
without looking
lost summer
unlike anything
only the voice
an instant
burns orange
and it is
always there that

there's nothing anymore
almost not even the
mirror the
look here and
it takes you less than
a minute
to lose
everything because
everything seems and
undoing itself
the time hardly
to leave the
I don't see anything and
to depart

it lacks a part
bounces without
heat already
they drip like
and uselessly
he continues to say it
so distant that
further on
everything changes
all the colors
await like
this silence
they seem to stand still
they have something else to

soft cursing
the spring
we mix
all we haven't
seen the
next story
many times if
looking for
to reach and
each instant
just when
they already tell a
something else

in one turn
everything finishes
green flowers mixed
endless journey
or different in trying
finally possible
the summer bird
flies and burnt
all remains
in front of the eyes
nothing changes
interchangeable one
crumbles like a
brief chill

in the slow
tired alike
she returns lifeless
the last time
movement prolonged
drips long the
seizing immersed
to reach perhaps
passed beyond
quick uncontrolled
and then it seems that
even when
everything ends
that there it had been

Vortex, 43-49

it doesn't hurt anymore
what you write
low horizon
how many suns
continue to
nails grow
hair and all
those things
it begins to make
all white they open wide
that resembles nothing
in the middle of the
written horizon
because I don't hope

we hardly look
liberated on
remote background
it disappears hoisted
all turns tight
it tears all around
after impossible
it hardly hisses
and frail names
I don't feel
cold probably
without obstacles
if not the all
which hanged pulls

yellow written
on the prison wall
on the wall of the
it is almost white
continues the journey
to open the eyes
first yellow
large overturned
little by little
has with
what continues
shifting immobile
there in the middle and
contact the dissappearence

a thing in the eye
days get longer
it precipitates inside
and outside and it smokes
inhuman horse
without obstacles the
sky contorted
nothing to say the
direction fast
then liberated
don't do anything
a bit of and there
and where then
and then they pass always

almost all
together how many times
we leave one
time knocking
after the other
and just the when
appears in
untouchable nothing
probably also
always the same
for example leaving
just now
that comes the
and all the rest

to their place
to the taut pole
on the fragile long
shattered discordant
internal interminable
interval dislocated
liberated on
we are oppressed
without moving
he imagines a big
tree horse
the sky jumps
useless escapee
cloud inevitable

line along a that the
long line
luminous language
the skin hardly
light in the
transparent tireless
it separates slowly
meanwhile the
it turns more round
around after
in a hurry it seems
it doesn't mean anymore

RIF/T: An Electronic Space for Poetry, Prose, and Poetics
Editors: Kenneth Sherwood and Loss Pequeño Glazier
ISSN#: 1070-0072
Version 4.1 Spring 1995

SPIN04.01 and RIFT04.01 copyright (c) 1995. All rights revert to author(s) upon publication. Texts distributed by RIF/T, e-poetry@ubvm, or the Electronic Poetry Center (Buffalo) may not be republished for profit, in any form, without the express consent of author(s) and notification of the editors, but may be freely circulated among individuals for personal use, providing that this copyright statement is included. Public archiving of complete issues only, in electronic or print forms, is permissible, provided that no access fee is charged.

Responses, submissions, and queries to: E-POETRY@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU