Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: poetry


The brightness of the music: she was almost blinded
while playing the flute, absent-minded.

Rob Mitchelmore (of and I wrote a poem. I furnished him with the punchline and he delivered the context, proving once again that even sophisticated-seeming poetry is just dirty jokes all the way down. I’m amazed at the result and very proud of our creation, and I hope you’re proud of us too.

Introducing: Request-a-Couplet

Faithful readers few,

Back in the long-ago, in those distant foggy times when I had a Twitter account, I used to tell people to give me a topic, any topic, and I would produce for them a rhyming couplet about that. That was fun. Since I no longer have that avenue for boring and political reasons, let us say that you can email me at johannes.punkt @ gmail . com, and politely request a poem. Then, as if by magic, one will appear. I reserve the right to make it a bad poem and also to change the rules. This offer is open indefinitely. Do let your poetry- or weirdness-loving friends know. I need things to do in idle times.

Here are a few examples of such poetry, from those dark days long past:

Sometimes your thoughts are gold and you feel wise
and other times it’s like “…view 18 more replies.”

— On “The Missing Link in the Otherwise Perfect Chain of Thought”

You wear long dark gloves alone
in solidarity with stone.

— On “Statues Missing Limbs”

They rub their hands together not
for God but cuz they hatched a plot.

— On “Just How Athetistic Praying Mantises Really Are”

One pill, two pill, red pill, blue pill;
I’m a bit uncomfortoobill.

— On “Medication”

DM;DO Song

I only publish poems after disasters, now.


DM;DO Song

by Johannes Punkt

Vi byggs inifrån som träd, och det växer ut broar mellan oss som inte är av död materia och dött tvång. Från oss går det levande ut. I er går det livlösa in.

– Karin Boye, Kallocain

Strip, pluck those lashes out like daddy’s long
legs. Bow your head like you’ve done something wrong
      and let your ostrich feather boa go
      and take your tar-black evening gloves off. Throw
            your widow’s veil and hat away and cut
      your fishnets up, your lace, your straps, your bow.
      Let fall what’s left of that old dress real slow.
            Step out of those Doc Martens. Don’t rebut —
don’t walk, don’t run, don’t march.
                                                 Don’t look me in the eyes.
                                                 Don’t mourn, don’t organize.
                                                 Your body tells no lies.
                                                 Your body tells no lies.
                                                 Don’t mourn, don’t organize.

Salt water waits its turn and then a church
roof crashes down on land. The gargoyles perch
      on solid oil. Pick up the blackest stone
      that you can find on Lesbos’ shore on loan
            from King Poseidon: vote with it as hard
      as you can throw it, when the tide is low.
      Now break, collapse, like waves, alone. You owe
            nobody anything. Let down your guard.
Don’t pray. Don’t supplicate.
                                        Just wait and see who dies.
                                        Don’t mourn, don’t organize.
                                        Your body tells no lies.
                                        Your body tells no lies.
                                        Don’t mourn, don’t organize.

Light. Stained light moves like maggots on a fresh
corpse, hesitant. Don’t flinch, don’t twitch, don’t thresh
      about. Don’t budge an inch. You’re dead so don’t
      get up. Don’t whimper when you’re kicked. It won’t
            get better. Don’t you think it would behoove
      you to lay still? Don’t rise, I know you’re prone
      to giving in to those who have a bone
            to have picked clean with you: the maggots move
like light on placid ponds.
                                    Don’t swat away the flies.
                                    Don’t mourn, don’t organize.
                                    Your body tells no lies.
                                    Your body tells no lies.
                                    Don’t mourn, don’t organize.

Tide pulls at you and your reflection blinks
six times. The woman in the mirror thinks
      that you’re the copy, staring through the moat
      the tide digs round your body as you bloat.
            You think the moon’s tug means the sea draws breath.
      The sea does no such thing. You see them row
      to shore the boats that overflow, that stow
            ten thousand migrants, in the shibboleth.
They’re refugees. Don’t think.
                                          Don’t fear the tide. Don’t rise.
                                          Don’t mourn, don’t organize.
                                          Your body tells no lies.
                                          Your body tells no lies.
                                          Don’t mourn, don’t organize.

All funerals should be immediate.
Yours was. The gulls made sure your needs were met
      then turned to vultures. If you find me: roll
      my useless wooden body to a hole
            and push me in and say what’s on your mind.
      No strings attached. Don’t be polite. Let’s go,
      let go. Don’t claim you’re sad, Pinocchio,
            lest something sprout. Don’t say shit to be kind.
Don’t notify my next
                              of kin. Don’t eulogize.
                              Don’t mourn, don’t organize.

                              Your body tells you lies.
                              Your body tells you lies,
                              don’t tell me otherwise.
                              No farewells, no goodbyes.
                              Don’t mourn, don’t organize.

Grief, love. A gunclap in your ribcage: grief,
grief, grief will turn you to a liar, thief,
      and murderer. Your deadbeat heartbeat: strobe;
      your heart: arachnid and arachnophobe;
            your body: like a tongue, but you – stay still.
      Don’t understand it. How can those you know
      be gone when you recall –? Grief waits below,
            between your shadows on the stone, to kill,
revive, repeat. And if
                              you hear my song, don’t rise.
                              Don’t rise, don’t rise, don’t rise.

Yours Truly

Dear All,

I wrote a long poem on twitter, and the marvellous Ria Gray read it aloud, and also had some very nice things to say about me. You can listen to her magnificent interpretation here: or read it for yourself here:

Ria is a good friend of mine and a better poet. Her poems are like half-rusted keys you find hanging off trees, which then proceed to fit a lock you clasped onto a bridge-railing years ago; it’s okay now to drop the weight into the canal. This one still gives me shivers, for example:

If you for some reason want to have me talk about my poem, just grab me and ask me. I’m all yours.

Your Truly,


Greetings. Today’s post is scheduled to appear on a Tuesday, which shows just how much I rely on induction. This is the last of these posts! Today’s translation is Hast Thou Slain the Jabberwock?

The notes, along with a back-translation of the translated piece, can be found at the bottom. Also there you will find the text of the translated Jabberwocky which I base my translation upon. Wild. The other entries in the project can be found at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/


    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Säkerligen har du läst om vidundret i Eva Håkanssons översättning av Lewis Carrolls verk, detta ilskebubblande monster som gömmer sig bakom en språkslöja. Inom loppet av några strofer söker en namnlös hjälte efter Tjatterslånet och sedan, påstås det, dödar han det. När han kommer hem igen vill den unge mannens far veta om han verkligen dräpt besten. Men någonting saknas ifrån frågan:

Och har du dödat Tjatterslån?

Efter jublet som följer upprepas första strofen i hela dess oroväckande form för att markera slutet på dikten. Legenden har skildrats och slaget vunnits men ändå verkar universum ha stannat kvar i exakt samma skick. Segerropen har än en gång överröstats av grösens mommande och skrangelmopps jämrighet. Det är uppenbart att någonting fattas.

Är det verkligen fadern som ställer den där frågan till sin pojk? I originaltexten svävar det citattecken runt faderns tal för att indikera att det är han som ställer frågan; i översättningen skrivs inget sådant stängsel för hans ord: det är samma röst som berättar som ställer frågan. I en dikt som i stort sett handlar om språk och kontext är det svårt att föreställa sig att denna detalj raderas omedvetet.

Med detta i åtanke, låt oss ställa frågan: vem är det som pratar? Lewis Carroll sade aldrig ordet tjatterslån men det är han som är författare till dikten. Ursprungligen var det han som ställde frågan ifall du har dödat Tjatterslån och Eva Håkanssons svar, på ett annat språk, lyder: Och har du dödat Tjatterslån?

Men hur är det du har dödat Tjatterslån egentligen? Håkansson har översatt nonsensordet ”vorpal” till det nästan förståbara ”hälfte.” Denna översättning tycks antyda att svärdet klyver monstret i tu. Men varför antyda det? Låt oss göra ett hastigt antagande: det speglar översättningsprocessen. För att ens kunna översätta Carrolls nonsensord och de ord som kamouflerar sig med nonsensdräkt måste hon ta isär dem för att se vad de består av. Som exempel kan vi undersöka det första av dessa ord: grilltock. Ordet ”brillig” ifrån originaltexten härleds enligt de flesta experter ifrån ”to broil,” att steka/halstra/grilla, och betyder således den tid då man börjar grilla maten inför kvällsmålet. Håkansson sydde ihop det översatta ordet med ett onomatopoetiskt klockslag och kom fram till grilltock. På samma sätt har hon klyvt och klistrat ihop besten.

Carrolls monster kan ha än mer djup att utforska. Som du kanske vet är det en av de mest översatta dikterna från det engelska språket, någonting som Håkansson måste ha varit medveten om då hon inte ens var den första att översätta dikten till svenska. Ändå kände hon att det var nödvändigt att än en gång ta isär och plåstra ihop Tjatterslånet.

Reptition är nyckeln till att förstå dikten. När den första strofen upprepas i slutet av dikten kommer vi tillbaks till början, och vi vet att monstret har kluvits i tu bara för att bli helt igen. Detta händer varje gång dikten läses. Ifall denna tolkning stämmer upplever läsaren något tidlöst: kanske är det en enda hjälte, dömd till att dräpa Tjatterslån för alltid; måhända är saken en generationsfråga: sonen tror sig ha dräpt Tjatterslånet och blir sedan gammal och upptäcker att det fortfarande är vid liv, så han skickar sin egen son för att avsluta det han påbörjade. Detta händer var gång dikten läses, oavsett om den läses av någon utanför texten eller Alice själv.

Det som repeteras är tolkningshandlingen. Oavsett om du bokstavligen fläker upp dikten och översätter den till ditt eget språk eller om du bara läser den tyst för dig själv tas innebörden sönder i ditt huvud för att komma ut pånyttfödd. Sådan är odjurets anatomi: Tjatterslånets hjärtklaffar är bläcket dess namn är skrivet med. När det läses högt är läsarens tonaccent odjurets puls. Fastän tungans hälfte svärd alltid klyver besten i tu återkommer alltid den sista strofen. Håkanssons översättning visar medelst avsaknaden av citattecken att det inte finns någon skillnad mellan den som dräper monstret och den som ställer frågan, inte heller mellan den som ställer frågan och den som läser upp. Inte heller, antyds det, mellan den som läser och den som dräper.

Nu måste jag ställa frågan till dig, kära läsare: har du dödat Tjatterslån? Oavsett ditt svar finns texten kvar i väntan på att du ska läsa den en gång till.



This feels like a fitting note to end this project with. I admit it’s an indulgence, but I couldn’t help it. Also this is my blog, I can do what I want. I might translate a few more on the occasion of a blue moon, because this has been very tilted towards my favourites in the beginning of the NoR archives and since it’s been going more favourites have emerged of course, but this is officially the end of the project. You’ll find the translation notes below, but first a machine-assisted back-translation of the piece itself because I found that funny:

Surely you have read about the behemoth of Eva Håkansson’s translation of Lewis Carroll’s works, this rage bubbling monster hiding behind a veil of language. Within a few stanzas seeking a nameless hero after Nagging Planters loan, and then, it is alleged, he kills it. When he comes back home want the young man’s father to know if he really killed the beast. But something is missing from the question:

And have you killed Tjatterslån?

After the jubilation following repeated the first verse in all its alarming form to indicate the end of the poem. The legend has been depicted and the battle won but still seems the universe have stayed in the exact same condition. The cries of victory has once again been voted by over mome raths and mimsy borogoves. It is obvious that something is taken.

Is it really the father who makes that question to her boyfriend? In the original text hovering the quotes around the father’s speech to indicate that it is he who poses the question; in the translation written no such fence to his words: it is the same voice that tells us who asks the question. In a poem which largely deals with language and context, it is difficult to imagine that this detail is deleted unconsciously.

With that in mind, let’s ask the question: who is speaking? Lewis Carroll never said the word tjatterslån, but it is he who is the author of the poem. Originally, it was he who asked the question if you have killed Tjatterslån and Eva Håkansson’s answer, in another language, reads: And have you killed Tjatterslån?

But how is it that you have killed Tjatterslån really? Håkansson has translated nonsense word “Vorpal” to almost understand only “Hälfte.” This translation seems to imply that the sword cleaves the monster in two. But why suggest it? Let us make a hasty assumption: it reflects the translation process. To even be able to translate Carroll’s nonsense words and the words that camouflages itself with nonsense costume she had to take them apart to see what they consist of. As an example, we examine the first of these words: grilltock. The word “brillig” from the original text are derived according to most experts from “to broil,” to fry/broil/grill, and thus means the time when you start to grill the food for the evening meal. Håkansson cobbled together the translated word with an onomatopoetic time and came to the grilltock. Similarly she cleaved and bonded, beast.

Carroll monsters can have even more depth to explore. As you may know, it is one of the most translated poems from the English language, something Håkansson must have been aware of when she was not even the first to translate the poem into Swedish. Yet she felt that it was necessary to again disassemble and plaster together Nagging Planters loan.

Reptition is the key to understanding the poem. When the first stanza are repeated at the end of the poem, we return to the beginning, and we know that the monster has been cleaved in two, only to become whole again. This happens every time the poem is read. If this interpretation is experiencing the reader something timeless: perhaps it is a single hero, doomed to slay Tjatterslån forever; perhaps it is a generational issue: son believes he has slain Nagging Planters loan and then becomes old and discovers that it is still alive, so he sends his own son to finish what he started. This happens every time the poem is read, whether it is read by anyone outside the text or Alice herself.

It repeated the interpretation the act. Whether you literally flaker up the poem and translate it into your own language, or if you just read it silently to yourself is the meaning apart in your head to come out reborn. Such is the beast’s Anatomy: Nagging Planters loan’s heart valves are ink its name is written in. When read aloud the reader’s tone accent beast pulse. Although the tongue Hälfte sword always cuts the beast in two always come the last stanza. Håkansson’s translation shows by the lack of quotation marks that there is no difference between the one who slays the monster and the one that poses the question, nor between the person asking the question and the one who reads aloud. Nor, it is implied, between the reading and the slaying.

Now I have to ask the question to you, dear reader: you have killed Tjatterslån? Whatever your answer is the text still waiting for you to read it again.

Like with any translation involving Carroll, this piece presented some unique challenges. The first and most obvious of these is the fact that in the objectively best translation of Jabberwocky, by Eva Håkansson in the 1950s or so, the head of the Jabberwock is not chopped off and carried back to the father, making the father’s question entirely reasonable. This kind of uproots the uncanniness of that question. For your benefit, here is the full text of her translation:


Vid grilltock när de smiga gropp
de snuck och spack på visotass.
Helt jämrig då var skrangelmopp
och grösen mommande bölsvass.

Sök skydd för Tjatterslån, min son,
för bitska gap och snapparklor!
Sky Jällonhök och fly ifrån
den hemska Haffagrip som glor!

Han tog sitt hälfte svärd i hand
och sökte länge utan blund.
Sen sov han i ett grönsaksland
och tänkte där en liten stund.

Då där han stod och grubblade
kom Tjatterslån med blick i brand.
Den röt och ilskebubblade
och visade var spetsig tand.

Han drog sitt hälfte svärd och svor
att utan snicksnack döda den.
Det gjorde han, och sedan for
han i galoppsan hem igen.

Och har du dödat Tjatterslån?
O, sabelfablig lyckodag!
Kom i min famn, min tapperson,
så god och glitterglad är jag!

Vid grilltock när de smiga gropp
de snuck och spack på visotass.
Helt jämrig då var skrangelmopp
och grösen mommande bölsvass.

In researching for this piece, I was able to identify three separate translation techniques relevant for the translation of Lewis Carroll. I’m sure some academics have talked about this but I was not able to find and pore over a copy of this book:, which I covet, so I don’t know how much already-treaded ground I’m covering here. But no mattter. These techniques show up in nearly any Jabberwocky translation as far as I can tell. Not counted amongst these are things such as the deliberate avoidance of portmanteaux, which is an uninteresting item.

The first most obvious one is to replace “nonsense” words with nonsense words. At least as far as I can tell – in Håkansson’s translation we get the “Jällon” in “Jällonhök,” for Jubjub, for example. You can also translate words that have an actual meaning into nonsense words, which is cheating and seemingly unavoidable. Or maybe I can just not deduce the meaning of “visotass.” [19-apr-2017 I have since found out that this is a neologism to do with the sundials that toves live under, and that the ‘jällon’ is a mangled up way of saying ‘lejon’, lion. Still, my original points probably stand even though my examples have been uprooted a bit.]

The second one is to treat the words like established loan-words and to write them down using the tools of the target language. For example, the mome raths are mommande in Håkansson’s translation.

The third one is hard work. I explained it in the text because the ideas didn’t make sense without it. First, the original seminonsense word is vivisiphered, then a new word is neologized in the target language to match the meaning of the Carrollian portmanteau. Håkansson does this quite well with grilltock, for example. Also, this technique might be easier now that we can easily search the internet for clues, rather than having to pore over books in the hopes that someone else has deciphered it before you, or going through your vocabulary (or a dictionary) to match beginnings and ends to find likely candidates.

So what I did to counter the problem posed by Håkansson’s translation was to look for other distinctions between the source and the target text. I found that the translator had skipped quote-marks in the poem. Presumably this is because Swedish, especially in the 60s when she translated the poem, usually used en-dashes to indicate speech, and that’s awkward to put in a poem or something. Another, smaller, detail I latched on to was the translation of “vorpal” – a word that Carrol admitted he couldn’t find a meaning for – into a word that actually makes sense. Surplus meaning where none was. This felt important.

I constructed an alternate theory using the gutted Swedish poem for haruspicy around the bones of the English poem and analysis. Most of it is explained in the deliberately-bad machine back-translation, I guess, but I want to point out that in reconstituting the beast’s anatomy I couldn’t find a good way to make a cadence a pulse, as in Uel’s original. Sure, the word cadence can mean rhythm, and you can talk about someone’s speech rhythm – this can be translated word for word, essentially – but it doesn’t sound like it means cadence. Instead I transposed the Swedish tonals (usually these are explained with a graph to show the tone change) onto the screen of an EKG machine, and said the tone accent became the beast’s pulse instead. This bit would likely go missing if I hadn’t explained it here, you know.

I quite like the idea that a statement is true in two different contexts for two entirely different reasons. Something about it pleases me: in both Uel’s text and my translation, the reader is the one causing the beast to resurrect, but the process by which this happens is different. Ultimately, that’s why I can still call this a translation, although that’s stretching it. The linguistic context has changed, therefore some paths taken change and almost become unrecognizable.


That’s all, folks.

Dogs Would Know

I thought I’d be good with animals, growing up. Just one of those strange kids who exerts no pressure on the surfaces he touches, and exudes goodness, something birds can trust. In the square by the cathedral they came to me because I paid a man to put seeds in my hands. I thought because I was broken in half there would be good inside me spilling out like a ruptured silo and that dogs would know.

You think the accident gave you superpowers. Like abuse has made you better as a person.

I thought that dogs would know. When I was homeless I slept in the bed of a woman who did not believe in evil; I think that must be the reason she let me stay there. I think there’s something foul in me. I slept in the corner of her mattress, like a dog. I took up as little space as I could and I disappeared from her life.

And someone else froze when I walked into the room. Jumped if I grazed her, walking past. And she was shaking when she said, I’m not afraid of you, attempting a reassuring tone and not a defiant one, ears perked like a fox in danger. I thought I’d be good with animals, instead I’m limping and shedding fur like an irradiated jackal. I thought from how badly broken I was, there would be recompense if not a reckoning.

Dogs don’t know, or they don’t care.

Any good that comes from me is what I’ve done. And any good that comes from you is you alone.


A Thing I Thought But
Didn’t Say And Now
     I Am Writing it Down

It would be an honour to be your ex.

The Poet Realizes Almost Too Late that his Advice is Not Wanted

or, The First Three Stanzas

Your heart strings your heartstrings all up in your living-tomb

and last week will last. We could stay. (We should give him room.)

Your organs will begin to rot inside

your skin, you butterfly in progress. Bide

your time for years until you are a corpse,

a living Buddha. Dead. Forgotten. Here,

you see that you’re not getting any where.

I have a poem in my chest tonight.

I know you. You won’t act your best tonight.

We’re broke and we’re broken; we’re blacklight and virgin vein.

Dim lights, pills, your light spills like mist and a purging rain.

You’re shaking like a leaf, you tremble like

a trigger finger, drink pressed like a mic

against your lips, you’re always in a kiss,

you frog, you scorpion. You shouldn’t know

how many people you’re in love with, though.

I have a poem in my throat tonight

and you will let me have your coat tonight.

I meet her and meet her high standards or what-have-you

and so far I’m so far away from you. Not a clue.

And she’s not evil, no-one is, but still.

But still. But still, you flee to your Brazil

committing crimes just to get in, but you,

you kicked chihuahua, don’t belong in hell

or heaven, you belong right here. We tell

ourselves we’re poems, but you cannot fit

a sonnet in a koan, but still: you suck

the marrow out of life itself to fuck

your spine up, crush your bones. And if you let

it go, this poem in between my teeth,

I’ll teach you how to breathe, I’ll stand beneath

and catch you, should you fall, this ending you

can’t help. For we take turns, my friends and I

to be the one to say: today, don’t die.

I have a poem on my tongue tonight

which I have swallowed. I have sung tonight.


From the hidden archives. Offered up today as a prayer that I won’t have to write another one of these.

I Fed the Birds

The day you disappeared, I fed the birds:
I feared the pigeons would get bored and go.
My fears were realised, in other words.

So I cut up the calendar in thirds.
It’s bright, you’re here. It’s rain, you’re not. It’s snow,
the day you disappeared. I fed the birds

a mixture of unspokens and unheards.
Our cockatiels still bear your accent, though:
my fears were realised in other words.

I deal in unexpecteds and absurds
but never thought you’d break a promise. So
the day you disappeared I fed the birds.

An empty pasture save the ducks, those herds
I shepherd with my trail of crumbs. But no –
my fears were realised in other words.

I hid the end in shakens and in stirreds.
It’s always been like that; the things we know
(the day you disappeared I fed the birds
my fears) were realised in other words.


A collaboration with Richard Kirby (@_L_M_C_). I wrote the first line and he wrote the third line, and then we each wrote a villanelle with that as the skeleton. You can read his poem here: /status/738698600990027776

Self (poem)

Stand in front of the mirror.
Keep telling yourself that you’re real.

— Disparition, Song for the Other Side

I am sorry that I
close my eyes
in all my
pictures to you. The
thing is, I
am standing in
front of the mirror
saying I’m a
person I’m a
person I’m a
person and I
don’t know what will
happen first:
either I believe
it or it
comes to lose
all meaning.