Christian Bök

... translating Arthur Rimbaud

for Arthur Rimbaud

Phantoms, infernal,
without refuge or return – phonemes.

We will hark if such
resurgent souls ordain a dreamt verse:

A (offspring of perfect
murders, so unseen that stranglers

fulfill no crime, and thus
mourners must call the unjust schemes


overdoses); E (charmed
slumber that engulfs the sleepers,

cradled by dreamlike
Sirens who sing mankind, forlorn themes);

I (corrupted archangel,
shriven when mercy redeems

all shadowy spectres
who plunder shipwrecked believers);


U (the Sphinx, beheld
by disciples, then by infidels:

a riddle that grieves
a king; a truth that crippled minstrels

must bewail in epics,
like staunch martyrs whom Furies spurn);


O (untempted Saint,
who lends this typewritten utterance

its fervency
– an endless cycle of perseverance).

O, how the Bards
abolish symbols, when the letters burn….


“Phonemes” is a homovocalic translation of “Voyelles,” preserving the sequence of vowels from the original, while replacing all other components with different consonants. The translation retains the schemes of both metre and rhyme, while citing the ambience of meanings from the source.

Christian Bök

Christian Bök is the author not only of Crystallography (1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, but also of Eunoia (2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök teaches English at the University of Calgary.