Contributor Notes

My Hypertropes: Poetry, Translation, and Transversion

Paul Braffort

of Paul Braffort

My Hypertropes: Poetry, Translation, and Transversion
Translators’ Note:




Amaranth Borsuk

Amaranth Borsuk
Gabriela Jauregui

and Gabriela Jauregui




The first elected member of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Workshop for Potential Literature), Paul Braffort is a poet, computer scientist, and songwriter. He has published five books in the Bibliothèque Oulipienne, as well as numerous textbooks on artificial intelligence and programming. Braffort published Mes hypertropes: Vingt-et-un moins un poèmes a programme in the Bibliothèque Oulipienne in 1979. The book pays homage to the other writers who were members of Oulipo at the time through twenty interlinked “programmed poems,” which operate according to the mathematical theorem (Zeckendorf's) that any number can be expressed as the sum of two or more Fibonacci numbers. Part of the content in each poem is thus “programmed” by the poems containing those numbers that can be added to make it (for instance, the 20th poem contains words that appeared in 13, 5, and 2). The numbers and arrows on the left-hand side of the page indicate places where language from a previous poem enters the current one.


With Braffort's approval, our project takes a twofold approach to the work, providing direct English translations alongside poems of our own: "transversions" that intersect, re-create, and occasionally subvert the source text, attempting to provide a window into the somewhat untranslatable nature of such intricate and inventive constraint-based work while also pointing to our own concerns (and influences) as contemporary writers. 


Hypertrope 15 is dedicated to Michèle Métail (b. 1951), who joined the Oulipo in 1975. A scholar of German and Chinese language and literature, her texts draw on the visual and sonic qualities of words, particularly through alliteration and assonance. Métail pioneered the practice of “oral publication,” incorporating slideshows, collages, and images into her readings, for which the text serves as a score that only takes shape in performance. Although she distanced herself from the Oulipo after 1998, she continues to explore permutation and linguistic play. In 2003 she published a series of Huiwenshi poems in the journal Action Poétique. Huiwenshi is an ancient form that uses the polysemous quality of the Chinese language to create palindrome poems that can be read in any direction. Her highly visual works utilize a grid of Chinese characters that may be read up, down, across, diagonally, and backwards. Our transversion provides a visual performance score in homage to both Métail and to Yoko Ono, whose work we admire.






Trois Fablettes à croquer



By Paul Braffort



 A Michèle MéTAIL





2      Cléopâtre charme Pompée

d’un tube qu’Antoine a pompé

Mais brusque il écarte d’un geste

Ce refrain qu’il déteste



le moral «hit », hait.


13→    Des anglais en automobile

avaient un five-o’clock en ville

ils voulaient sans en avoir l’air

boire un vocabulaire



Le mot « rallye-thé »

2      Je n’ai pour tirer ma voiture

qu’une œuvre écrite sans rature

Or pour mes Odes mes Atrides

il faudrait une bride



         le mors á Litté.

13→    Un autochtone de Rabat

toussait courbé sur son grabat

tant qu’il était par trop facile

d’attraper ses bacilles



          Le Maure alité.






Three crunchable Little Fables



Translated by Amaranth Borsuk and Gabriela Jauregui



For Michèle METAIL



Cleopatra had charmed Pompey

with a tube Antony pumped

But brusque he removed with a geste

This refrain he detests



    the moral “hit” he hates.


Englishmen in automobile

had a five o’clock at the ville

They wanted surreptitiously

to drink vocabulary


quoth he

    The mode “Rally-tea”


To tow my car I only have

a work written without a scratch

But for my Odes my Atreidae

I would need reins



     the ’more on Litty.


A sickly native of Rabat

coughed hunched over on his cot

so excessively that with ease

one could catch his disease



     The Moor’s reality.






Tranversion No. 15


  by Amaranth Borsuk and Gabriela Jauregui





Tranversion No.15