Who Should Inherit the Estate

Strange happenings over at dVerse FormForAll tonight. Our host, Charles Miller, prompts us to try our hand at Dada, avant-garde, chip-choppy poetry. There are many ways to do this–perhaps the simplest way is to cut up a text into words, phrases, sentences, put them in a bowl, randomly pick them out and arrange them into whatever meaning you can perceive. I’ll explain my own procedure at the end, in kindness to those who couldn’t care less how this poem came about.

Who Should Inherit the Estate
Can I suppose
            it is sometimes
exceedingly good
            when Papa and Mama
told an Officer anything?
            Further, though it
had on hats, my
            family concept
is not very pretty,
            and it was–
is–after all,
            her take.
Ok. So I went to Gutenberg to find a free, non-copyrighted text to print out and cut up into words for the random prize drawing. I noticed that Gutenberg hosts non-English texts, and had a strange idea. What if I take a portion of a non-English text, copy and paste some random foreign words and phrases into MS Word, take that document and put it through a translation tool, then re-arrange what’s left as I thought suitable? Wouldn’t that be fun? That’s what happened here. I used a Danish text.

Here is the original, which you can gladly skip since  it probably just looks like monkey-typing (unless you know Danish or a closely related language).
Jeg vilde saa gerne vide, om det er morsomt at være en Eventyrerske, for det er øjensynligt det, jeg nu maa blive. Jeg har læst alt muligt om det i en Bog; det er at se godt ud, og ikke at have noget at leve af, og dog have Fornøjelse af Livet — og det har jeg i Sinde! Jeg har ganske vist ingenting at leve af, for man kan ikke regne 300 Pund om Aaret for noget videre — jeg er overordentlig køn, og jeg véd det godt, og jeg forstaar at sætte mit Haar og tage mine Hatte paa og den Slags Ting, saa jeg er naturligvis Eventyrerske! Jeg var ikke bestemt til at spille den Rolle. — Fru Carruthers adopterede mig for at efterlade mig sin Formue, da hun den Gang var Uvenner med sin Arving, som skulde arve Godset. Saa var hun saa inkonsekvent, at hun ikke skrev et ordentligt Testamente — derfor er det, at det Menneske skal have alt, og jeg ingenting.
Jeg er tyve Aar, og lige indtil forrige Uge, da Fru Carruthers blev syg og døde paa én og samme Dag, havde jeg det sommetider meget behageligt, naar hun var i godt Humør.
Det kan ikke nytte at lade, som om man kan lide Folk, fordi de er døde, naar man vil skrive sine virkelige Tanker. For det meste hadede jeg Fru Carruthers. Det var ganske umuligt at gøre hende tilpas. Hun havde ikke Begreb om Retfærdighed, eller om noget andet end sin egen Bekvemmelighed, og om hvor meget andre Mennesker kunde bidrage til hendes Fornøjelse.
Grunden til, at hun i det hele taget kom til at gøre noget for mig, var den, at hun havde været forelsket i Papa, og da han giftede sig med stakkels Mama — som slet ingen Familie havde — og saa døde, tilbød hun at tage mig til sig og opdrage mig, bare for at ærgre Mama, fortalte hun mig ofte. Da jeg kun var fire Aar, havde jeg ikke noget at sige i den Sag, og hvis Mama havde Lyst til at give Afkald paa mig, blev det jo hendes Sag. Mamas Fader var Lord og hendes Moder jeg véd ikke hvem, og de havde ikke gjort sig den Ulejlighed at blive gifte, det var derfor, at stakkels Mama slet ingen Slægtninge havde. Da Papa var død, giftede hun sig med en Officer og rejste til Indien og døde, og jeg saá hende aldrig mere — og saadan gaar det til, at der ikke er en Sjæl i Verden, som kommer mig ved, eller som interesserer sig for mig, saa jeg kan ikke gøre for, at jeg er en Eventyrerske og kun tænker paa mig selv, kan jeg vel?

Then I randomly chose these phrases.

som skulde arve Godset

Da Papa og Mama
noget videre
mine Hatte
i godt Humør.
en Officer fortalte
og tage paa
havde Familie
er overordentlig køn,
om det ikke Begreb
det sommetider meget
blev det jo hendes
kan jeg vel?

Putting it into MS Translator gave me this, which had some interesting lines–but too little sense (I make a piss-poor Dadaist, I suppose).

Who Should Inherit the Estate
When Papa and Mama
anything further
My Hats
in a good mood.
an Officer told
and take on
had Family
is exceedingly pretty,
though it is not Concept
It is sometimes very
It was, after all, her
can I suppose?

To end up with my final creation I kept all the words, changing only word order, punctuation, and capitalization. Notice I kept the title as is! Ta da! or should I say, Dada!

38 thoughts on “Who Should Inherit the Estate

  1. hahaha totally fascinating….you took non english words and put them together without knowing what they meant…then translated…that is awesome…and it came out to be not so bad a poem either…when mom and dad talk to officers, i get a little scared you know…keep it under the hat…smiles.


  2. Very clever! i agree with hennaink about the hats.
    so charming. This is Manicddaily from wordpress – blogger wants me to use old blogger name!

    Thanks – much enjoyed. k.


  3. You broke down several languages and meanings and stories to get there. It reminded me of some multi-process method of extracting certain metals, destruction, assembly: creative destruction. Thoroughly, thoroughly well done.


  4. Very nice… and since I can read Danish (a little) I can tell you that you managed to keep all resemblance to the original text away… Furthermore you add the quirkiness of the translator to the process.. Very good (If I ever use it, I have to do it from Russian I think).


  5. Thanks Brian–yeah, I have no understanding of Danish, so it worked out pretty well. I did choose a language that capitalizes nouns, so that I had a good chance of choosing different parts of speech I could work with.


  6. Thanks Charles, I can't say this is a technique I'll use often for a finished product, but there are some happy coincidences that can occur when randomly putting words together–if the creative juices dry up it may be enough to keep things going.


  7. Thanks Marina–as I mentioned to Rowan, there was little thinking involved. I did rightly suspect that the translation tool would give the randomness I was looking for!


  8. Thanks Bjorn, I figured you had at least some general familiarity with Danish–it's good to know I was able to fight off any original meaning!


  9. Thanks Misky–it was interesting to see what words were thrown out at me to work with. I love other languages, just seeing different script, different ways of expression, so I figured I'd have a little fun from this. And I did!


  10. Wow! Fantastic, mad-poet you are! What a brilliant technique. I LOVE how this turned out. My favorite bit (a large chunk, actually)-

    Further, though it
    had on hats, my
    family concept

    is not very pretty,
    and it was–
    is–after all,
    her take.

    What nuance and meaning there! This is great. -Mike


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