“Wailsong 4 Sydney” collects instances of a novel form of found poetry that I call the amput(ransl)ation. First, a random string of alphanumeric characters is typed by hand into Google translate, which misinterprets this string as a legitimate entry in one or another language (often, but not always, recognizing it as Arabic script). Then, one or more characters are iteratively excised from the string, producing a descending sequence of alternate translations, until not much more than a stump is left.
While perusing this form, on January 10th, 2020, in the midst of the Australian bushfire crisis, I happened upon a sequence that spoke of Sydney, Australia, of greenness and heat, of smoke, and of payment. Delving a bit deeper, I identified the sequence in question, and explored various permutations of both the string and the type and order of character excisement, ultimately producing this sequence of found poetry, which serves as a dirgesong for the bushfire crisis currently underway in Australia.
It is typeset here in Australia, an open-source typeface designed by Denver Ross that "takes inspiration from the arches of the Sydney Opera House to the waves of Bondi Beach."
Franco Cortese is an experimental poet living in Thorold, Ontario. His poetry was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize and has appeared in Literary Review of Canada, The Malahat Review, Canadian Literature, The Capilano Review, filling Station, ditch, and others. His recent chapbooks include aeiou (No Press 2018), uoiea (above/ground press 2019), and teksker (Simulacrum Press 2019). He also has leaflets, booklets and other poetic ephemera out through The Blasted Tree, Penteract Press, and Spacecraft Press. His work has been published both within Canada and internationally, and has been anthologized in Concrete and Constraint (Penteract Press 2018) and Science Poems (Penteract Press 2020).
(after A.M. Klein)
The weather cites the welling mercury;
un autre mois comme ça, we'll all be dead –
so say the clamours banging on our walls.
In the papers, calls
for carbon caps are lain next to a sea
of melting rhetoric. Sunburns run red.
A week, and it will break! How many stores
of all their A/C units are blood-let?
Outside their boiled abodes, the city tries
to fight off fire with ice,
cones ripple and dip, kids squeeze their Freezies warm.
There are no winds to fan our fevered têtes.
But it will come! One night this week a boom
will wake the sweltering masses, light will flash,
fat drops will pound upon our window panes,
then roust from cooling rooms
the sardine-tin-packed youth to a terrasse
'til autumn overtakes us yet again.
Alex Manley is a Montreal-based writer whose work has appeared in Maisonneuve magazine, The Puritan, Carte Blanche, and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day feature, among others, and whose debut poetry collection, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, was published by Metatron Press in 2016.
Watch Your Head is an online anthology of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
Sign up for our Newsletter