Print & Recorded Transcriptions of Poems

Posted by celyn

With big thanks to both Deanna and Melanie, I’ve finished the transcription of all of the poems in Henry Beissel’s, Mike Gnarowski’s, Eli Mandel’s and both of George Bowering’s recordings. Along with the questions Deanna very thoughtfully raised in her earlier post, I have a few to add.

This time around, transcription when print versions of the poems were available was much, much faster. The main issue that I faced was trying to decide whether to treat the print version as the base for the recorded version, or vice versa. Instead using a system based on printing dates vs. recording dates, which would quite quickly prove confusing, I decided to create my own type of annotation or notation system. I hope that this is the simplest, clearest way to indicate any variations, though I certainly am open to suggestions!

On the top of each transcript, this note appears:

Note: anything in [ ] is a difference between reading and published version or a transcription note. [REC: italics] indicates what the recorded version was. [PUB: regular] indicates what the published version is.

An example of this is as follows:

“Great Sea

vigilante of seasons

grey rat quiescent

exposed to the air and the gaze of men

quivering and trembling

in the dream of [REC: a] [PUB: the] dead eye

of a dead age of the rags

and the weak livery of a dead age …”

Obviously, the variation here is probably due to normal mix-up made by Mike Gnarowski, switching ‘a’ with ‘the’ during the reading. However, there are quite a few (much more interesting) circumstances where the poet is reading a different version. The same printed version of the poem ends much, much earlier than the recorded version:

“They have insulted you   Great Sea

the have performed their splendid nuptials

on your threshold

made common cause

with the obscene discharge of mountains


the have forced their unblinking deities on you …

[REC: And yet, you have not answered them. You have remained prodigal and silent, listening to their radiant age and have allowed them familiarities, unthinkable insults, they have dressed you in an old sac, smelling of old wheat and dugs, and the marketplace. But you lie in the error of your choice arise, at brief times to prowl and to excite and to create the enlarged festival of terror, but then you lie quiescent again, sketching no diagram of your purpose, a stone’s throw from the other shore, unpredictable and magnetic, you lie face to face with your power, and dream of the long wrath and tell yourself amazing tales of war and of your forests and of your love for the great monsters and the fables that the poets spoke and of the copper people, the profile of whose weapons is in the marrow of your irritable self. And now they are scavenging everywhere, the white wind flies, the conspiracy has drawn tight its net, the tide tells nothing of you, you have no say, great sea, there is no measure of flood tide. They are saddled with haste and cannot glorify young ocean amid their land, primeval nurse of the copper nurse among the copper people, whose wide breast was set with a wide  [inaudible] of fails. What has sapped your wing that you whistle softly for grievance and grieve over the lost bed of warriors as in the fast trough [?] of your vision you cannot see the raised hand, the enmities of those who have taken wives in your country. Enquire, great sea, in your horror what men or of great work they do, why the poor fury [?] the uranium and all the other or, why the mystery of the copper people gone from your wide, high breast, or do you know? Have you seen the horror relayed in your dream. Sing to me grey rat quiescent, sing great sea at the summit of your peril, of the great shadow cast, and of the council you have held at another age.]”

As you can see, I have left the recorded transcription in unmarked prose style. Commas and periods are assumed by the way that Mike Gnarowski reads, but are in no way correct, as the printed version of the poem uses punctuation. I have made a note in each instance that the recorded version isn’t published that punctuation is assumed by the transcriber.

This is an instance where individual words have been changed between recording and publication:

“[REC: Behold the] [PUB: A] man of powerful influence

with [REC: mouths forever closed] [PUB: mouth irascible]

and mind [REC: erasable] [PUB: as tight] and unaware [REC: that through the]

[PUB: as] earth now lulled [PUB: beyond] [REC: will move]

the princely naked ness of spring,

[PUB: has come to say goodbye—]

This is December; [REC: and the man has come to say good bye]”

As you can see, it does get tricky to read, and I’m open to suggestions about how to make this more clear. It would be amazing if we could have a web-based solution for viewing the poem like two columns of the same poem, or coloured texts… the possibilities are endless and possibly better than solutions I could find in Word.

Filed under Uncategorized