What You Should Know

There’s something that you should know already
But you don’t
And it doesn’t matter what it is
It matters that you don’t know

And you should know

And I’ve long debated all the
Good in should
And should I tell
Need I tell
And well… for me
I’ve gone through tough

And we’ve both lived long enough
Without the burden of full disclosure
What’s the point of more exposure
It won’t provide a drop of peace
Or spiritual composure

As we both age to middle-age
Sage supposedly

And there’s a growing list
Of things you mis-remember
Or dis-remember
Of our common past

So much that I now accept
The stories that you share as true
Acknowledge glories
For races that you say I’ve run
And even won

I’m less committed to those absolutes of truth
Discovered all those shouldn’t - shoulds
Are just a self indulgent luxury of youth

But then
Of course
You know that already

Life is (not) Like a Circus

Let me say that life is like a circus

It is filled with smells
That you half
Recognize - Smells of other species' sex
Lions' half-tamed dominance
The must of elephants' intellectual

And are those flesh-colored leotards
Or flesh-colored…flesh

And the contortionist's doing something naughty
And clowns aren't funny
Sometimes sad
Mostly just creepy

And life ends too soon
And has harsh notes
And it's sexist
In an out of date way
And the food is not filling
And the clowns are creepy
And there's too much shit
And not enough sawdust

It is a place of cruelty
To animals but…
Those most cruelly used
Those most cynically exploited
Are the spectators
In each town
Like a herd of wildebeest
Except the cattle stands still
And the lions go from town to town

Run away, run away
Run away
And join the circus

Le Vaisseau D'or - The Golden Heart: a Translated Poem by Nichola Ward

Le Vaisseau D’or
By Émile Nelligan Circa 1899

C'était un grand Vaisseau taillé dans l'or massif:
Ses mâts touchaient l'azur, sur des mers inconnues;
La Cyprine d'amour, cheveux épars, chairs nues,
S'étalait à sa proue, au soleil excessif.

Mais il vint une nuit frapper le grand écueil
Dans l'Océan trompeur où chantait la Sirène,
Et le naufrage horrible inclina sa carène
Aux profondeurs du Gouffre, immuable cercueil.

Ce fut un Vaisseau d'Or, dont les flancs diaphanes
Révélaient des trésors que les marins profanes,
Dégoùt, Haine et Névrose, entre eux ont disputés.

Que reste-t-il de lui dans la tempête brève ?
Qu'est devenu mon coeur, navire déserté?
Hélas! Il a sombré dans l'abîme du Rêve!

The Golden Heart
A Translated Poem by Nichola (Nicki) Ward, August 2010

She was a Vessel great and graven-gold
Masts touching Lazuli-The-Sky on unknown seas
A Citrine lover, hair in disarray, flesh bare-displayed
Sprawled from stem to stern…naked to the sunlight

But there came a night where she was chastised by the Reef
In an ocean of lies where the sirens sang
It kissed her keel …The horror of her wreckage
Commended to A Chasm and an Ever-Grave

So became a Golden Vessel, whose walls laid open fancy
And revealed her treasures to the dispute of a desecrated deep
To those crude and squabbling tars:  Fear, Hatred and Disgust

And what remains of this brief storm?
What happened to the lifeless ship that was my heart?
Wretched! - It died in darkness - in the Abyss of dreams



Just for the record, this translation is neither free, nor loose nor blank… Nor is this a “McTranslation”… i.e. a blandly academic exercise which slavishly adheres to rhyme schemes at the complete expense of meaning, music or aptness.

The methodology I use strictly observes the great translator Ezra Pound’s rigors of integrity: Logopeia, Phanopoeia and Melopoeia. What emerges from this disciplined process is not a “translation of text” but a “translation of poetry”

To expand on Marianne Moore’s thesis “It is a poem because it is written by a poet”

To which I would add, “Anyone can translate text…But only a poet can translate a poem”

Do I claim this translation to be definitive? Of course not…but while no one can determine Nelligan’s intent… His technique can be observed and honored. In this sense, I have done my very best to see that this translation is a fair reflection of the holism of his language choices…Even to the extent of reviewing his original handwritten drafts for clues. (flow, corrections, punctuation, alignment, intensity of pen pressure, etc.)

So, I do claim that this is a “Translated Poem” (which for me is a pretty bold statement)

FYI, Below are some samples of my notes made on-the-fly… They show some of the reasoning behind the choices I made and the directions I took. I have left them in their rough and unedited state. These are my notes…To myself…From myself…So no attempt has been made to present a cogent argument…they’re just how I navigate the text and remind myself of key points.

I was going to erase them…but then thought…what the heck…someone might find some of it interesting (I did)

INFORMAL NOTES: August 26, 2010


Of Interest: shortly after this, piece was revealed … Nelligan had a psychotic episode and never returned to full mental health…Although it is a little ghoulish to think in these terms… Part of the power of this piece is the rawness of emotion…and the despair.

That said, it is a superbly crafted poem. Structurally, it is incredibly sound. It also displays a high degree of wit and suggests a playfulness and familiarity with Latin and Greek, that comes from considerable study.

However, it transcends the academic and is not the least “precious” –  It is first and foremost, emotionally authentic …Having translated this, very carefully… I think his language choice is nothing short of brilliant. It is also deeply layered, because Nelligan was clearly familiar with French, English and Irish… All of this echoes on the page…and to my ear…And yet, it is not a Franco-Anglo-Gaelic poem… It has integrity and a distinct Canadian voice


  • The vessel (cup) < > vessel (ship) word-play seems stronger in French then in English ... at least to me. I also get a sense too that that one must consider the erotic "word play" that suggests a maiden's vessel i.e. Vagina or (if one was feeling a bit more pro-creative)..."womb"
  • These last ideas don't carry over into English at all well.
  • The Golden Vessel, while technically accurate just seems like such a bland translation to me...Also, it seems a little sterile
  • So, while "Golden Heart" may not be perfect... it does have a bit more humanity...and it does have a figurative sense as a receptacle of love..
  • It is also a plausible name for a ship

Stanza 1
  •    Azur from Arabic Azul, Lapis Lazuli
  •    Some translators argue (very convincingly) that Cyprine d'amour refers to Venus (of Cyprus)... But, on balance, this seems to be a very ordinary choice for an extraordinary poet
  • So, I chose to look at the "elemental" language that surrounds this piece overall and this stanza does seem to have a "mineral/earth" thing going on (Gold, Lazuli, Cyprine)... furthermore, there's a lot of yellow and since...
·         Cyprine = pale yellow gemstone, form of jade, from which I extrude Citrine, while not technically accurate from a gemologists perspective… the “lemon-ness” of the word.. seems to imply the color”

Judging by Nelligan's wit and erudition it could well mean that this ambiguity is intentional... and that both answers (In French) are correct... of course... in Translation, this would mean that both English answers are wrong.

Stanza 2.
  • “Il vint”… very specific conjugation (Past Historic… a complete(d) act…not continuous past imperfect as in the earlier stanza
  • Carine (carina) = Latin name for keel + (interestingly in the Irish Language which Nelligan also spoke… it is the word for a close “friend”)… “Kissed Keel” seems to very much honor these undertones.
  • Inclina…(literally past participle of “inclined”… to my ear curiously passive voice)… It suggested to me the motion of burying a body at sea…and hence “commended”… This chimes nicely…and also allows the modifier “horribly” to be used. The literal translations “horribly sinking” or “horribly inclined”… are foul to the ear and do not mirror the elegance and melopeia of the original.

Stanza 3.
  • “Il fut” Once again, this (Past Historic) conjugation is not accidental… and not only links unity of time to time to the preceding stanza But also (in my opinion) unity of tone.
  • Diaphanous…Literally Dia Phanos… “permeable to fancy” and thus artistically transparent.
  • Revelaient…Third person plural indicative imperfect…i.e. continuously transparent…
  • “Tresor” might be ironically intended…Kind of a virginal thing...
  • The translation of the "marins profanes" section was very tricky ... "mariners", and "sailors" are appropriate... but I thought that "Tars" was a bit more coarse and perhaps sexual...
  • Untangling the sense structure so that it was both orderly and so that it flowed in English was particularly hard... but to my ear, finishing the stanza "entre eux ont disputés" as "who argue among themselves" was not an option.
  • Nevrose… Often literally translated as neurosis…However, since the poem predates our current psychiatric understanding of neurosis…And since a relationship is clearly intended between the emotions of disgust and hatred… (what we would perhaps describe today as elements of  phobia) My feeling is that the original intent of “nevrose” was broader…to suggest irrational fear.
  • Scansion.. Fear hatred and disgust

Stanza 4.
  • Déserté…deserted … hence unpopulated…hence devoid of human life.
  • Sombre is meant to suggest condemned to darkness and to the land (or sea) of the dead. In French, this “shadow” mirrors the “soleil excessif” in the first stanza beautifully. But, in English, we need to take a different tack…hence “Sunlight”  in the 1st Stanza and “Darkness” in the final envoi.
  • Also… it feels like the duality of somber death and somber shade deserves a “double-tap”… And I think the consonance of Death and Darkness works well
  • Helas = Does not translate as the insipid “alas”… I think Old French/Early Quebec French applies i.e = Ha Las (I am ) Wretched > Misery > Lassus >Weary

Accidental Perfection: A Series

This was an interesting commission that I received: The poetry was to compliment an art show with the theme of "accidental perfection"... So, I used (what I think) is a creative approach to meeting that mandate.

I used a series of random generated events, combined with a series of rigid and mindful editing processes to create "accidental perfection"

First I took The titles of some of the principal pieces in the show and used these as topical themes.

Then I took classical quotations on the topic from established sources…I then created a new poem based on a condensed selection words that were contained within the body quote.

Next I entered this newly created poem into a random generator which scrambled the content.

I repeated this process through several cycles until I found an order that resonated for me

My final edit was to use lyrical license to restore this series of poems to a “perfect” and poetic state.

The results are below:


It is accidental
Not monumental
It is that art is
…Is that our art monumental?
…Is not accidental that art
Not monuments
…Are intimate


The way
Some beginning
I perfect
Hard and stories
Changing often
Some don't clear
An ending
Some don’t clear
That rhyme middle

Pine Cone

As of rudimentary fish…
Pine cone
Form the often
Small like leaf bud
Like “a”
Like “A”
A-s of
A-s of small


I squirrel for meaning
Living like example
I must

Great looking and whole
Living is you
It means something


Of literature all the arts
Theatre all
And tactile

All the arts
Are a collision


Irresistible irresistibly to
Too irresistible irresistibly
Is desired
Love is to be an
Love is a desire to
An be is Love
Desire desired be irresistibly


Another in mind or hate
Is freed
It two

It separates perfection
In the another
In which
It comes interval
Freed thought
Satisfied in separate calm

Hound Dog

Among a hound

Bite it!
Bite like it lives you
Sticks you


In attaining what we want
And all-which human
Our what-happiness
Nature can
Give none our obligations
Nor set the comparable


Successive you arrive with portrait
Start search for/through egg
When start
The same
Starting process:
The one with eliminations
The Volume
Comes through inevitably


Space you relate another person
Real space
We around and
Relate it almost as another
Walk around it as
And relate as
Real around it

Living Room

Doing over bad and community
About living bad pride
About living room and
Buildings in spots gathering
Someone is restoring
Someone be the new spots


It's all guys
Where the

It's guys
…The strong guys

Where like - with weak
It's like with the weak

And the
Western good and bad guys


Of lost rooms
On the
Television brutality
Into the room: America
Brutality into living of Vietnam
Comfort the living Vietnam

Of the lost
Television was


I touched you
And I thought that I would never speak again

I touched you
And I forgot… What?… I kept forgetting

An E sailed out
Suspended on itself

Never setting
Tacking organically to the Horizon

It never looked back
Why should it?

It had said all it needed to say
It had said all that needed to be said

I tried to chase it with an A
But that note went its own way

Ignoring the compass And conformity
I released a D
And then a G

Set each free to seek
Their own infinities

I went with them all
Exiled and sustained

Long-later and light-headed
I returned to breath


Literary Porn Star

Through the letter box today
Discreetly labeled and discretely sent
A package
No casual passer-by
Could determine the
Subversive nature of its printed content

Delicately I laid it out
Upon the bed
Turned page on page
Didn't realize my breath was held
Until I gasped and let it out
I had made the center spread

Shivered at the bondage clamps across
The navel of this publication - Cut in two
And perfect bound
The staples gleamed
My virgin work lay naked on this scandalous sheet
Spread-eagled in this nude review

Whatever would my mother think of me
If she knew that just this June
I was a Playmate of the Month
In that pornographic mag: the LRC

(On being first published in the June 2010 edition of the Literary Review of Canada)

At the No-Tell Motel

It started and it ended
At the no-tell … Motel

You were late
And I was drunk
And we were both
Again … Yet again

You were married to your job
And probably to someone else
But we talked about your work
And how your boss was such a jerk

And how to deal with clients
Who were slow-pay … No-pay

And while we took our customary showers
We joked about all the DNA
On the top sheet and the floor

And with all that contamination how
They’d never be able to identify ours

Unless it was a TV show

We tried to recreate our own Crime Scene
But the lust … Was dust

We were thinking of somewhere else
Afterwards - We lay there

Imagining the ticks
Of a digital clock

Waiting to see
Who would suggest
The early checkout

To make a simple statue

The sculptor says:

Consider the subject matter
Prepare sketches
From every angle

Surprise yourself with its geography
Ride imaginary camels
Across the desert of its flanks
The caverns of its flaring nostrils
The mountains of its shoulders
The rivers of its mane

Listen so carefully
That you can hear the sound of each hoof placed
The before, the during and the after of its pace

The thud of mud
The recoil of a thousand pounds
Vibrating through soil
To engage the soles of your own feet

Now take a mallet
A chisel and a block of stone

And simply
Chip away
The parts
That are not horse

Message in a bottle

On my
Deserted island
I walk along the largely
Unlettered shore

I wrote poems
Stuffed them into bottles

The messages at first
Please send help
Get me off this place
I’m not where I should be

But the tides
These cries

Later they were conversational
Talking about the weather
And sunsets

And the tides
Sent these back too

More recently
They contain
Smiling advice
Kind comfort

I influence
The tone

The tides
The course of correspondence

Tea Session with Depression

One lump or two
I ask
Assuming that I am

Depression is indifferent
And so I merely leave the bowl
And spoon
Within reach
In case it has a change of heart

In past visits
Treated with contempt
In my vain attempt
To cast it off

I had always considered it to be coarse
Somehow brutish
Now that we are face to face
It seems quite shy

I’m reaching for compassion
For this unfashionable defense
This wartime response
Who stares
Like a shell-shocked veteran
Lost in peacetime

I try to remember
That it is only trying to help
Old coping
As a talking doll with a knotted string
Answering questions
That haven’t been asked

That’s why I’m pouring
Gentle tea
For both of us

A Menagerie Friend

You were my familiar
A strange and cat-like companion
Courteous enough
And so not fully feline
With indifference

I had the sense
On our first meeting
To keep you secret-secret

I did not want anyone
To talk me out of hearing
Your imagined laughter

I did not want anyone
To explain away your whispers
As merely breezes

...Or your smile
As a wishful thought

I did not want to question
Your wise insight
Your counsel which was
So often
The same as mine

When did you fade
...Where went the days
That somehow passed without you

...They escaped
Like pets
At incautious doors