efter louis-ferdinand céline, via the Scots
at the stert o it aa there wis feelin
the wuird wis-na there wi aa
when ye kittle an amoeba
a bairn greits
the wuird is uggsome
ti ventur sic is ill-faurt
in the beginning there was sensation
the word was not there at all
when you tickle an amoeba
a baby cries
the word is disgusting
to attempt it is ill-advised
Author’s note: “wuirds/words” is a more or less straightforward found poem, taken from an interview given before his death (1961) by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the whole of which appeared in another translation several years after the event (1964) in The Paris Review. The poem was originally rendered from the French into Scots, which I’ve subsequently translated into English. The poem itself speaks of the difficulty (impossibility?) of translating the subjective immediacy of phenomena into the social institution of language.
Andrew McCallum is a Scottish poet and scallywag with a distant background in European philosophy.