Urayoán Noel: “Walt Whitman”

Walt Whitman
A homophonic translation from the Spanish of Rubén Darío

In the soup place video eBay in Diego
Facebook a moment the San Andres sun
DNA and Yahoo out boy this month in excel
I will be in bed, I even message. Call my mobile if

So Alma, many people are in space
the song so sick and Silas on the rocks the Belmont book
eagle how to fight La Mirada have a roll it on you!
Google one profeta to will come by so com

Sunset about the galleon soul
anu and CA in full google pimples
be safe in IVF when a bull. Omarion

E-com on a postal Colorado
posse bar SF web for a super mean
call so so better field hospital bed and bath

Noel’s Note: This homophonic translation of Rubén Darío’s famous 1890 sonnet to Walt Whitman was composed by reading Darío’s original into a BlackBerry outfitted with the English-language voice recognition software Vlingo. The machine’s phonetic version was then arranged on the page in keeping with the original’s sonnet form. Because Vlingo is designed with a business user in mind, it is programmed to “hear” business and technology terms (“google,” “mobile,” “web,” “excel”). Needless to say, these terms often bear little more than a passing resemblance to the original Spanish words. What results, then, is not really a pure homophonic translation from Spanish to English; it is, rather, a damaged Darío, his modernista music rendered not into Whitman’s foundational English, but into a neoliberal doppelgänger closer to what Emily Apter, in The Translation Zone, calls “Netlish.” For a conventional translation of the poem, see Greg Simon and Steven F. White’s version, side by side with the original, in Selected Writings: Rubén Darío (Penguin, 2005).