Homophonic translations create poems that foreground the sound of the original more than the lexical meaning: sound-alike poems or "sound writing." This essay presents a dizzying number of examples of sound mimesis as a way to explore the poetics of sound and the politics of translation. Covering modernists (such as Pound, Bunting, and Khelbnikov) and contemporaries (such as David Melnick and Caroline Bergvall), the Bernstein also addresses homophonics in popular culture including an extended discussion of TV comedian Sid Caear's "double talking." The essay raises a thorny question: Are homophonic poems a form of cultural appropriation or a form of transnationalism?
Charles Bernstein is a prominent member of the Language poets, and the author of 40 books, ranging from large-scale collections of poetry and essays, to pamphlets, libretti, translations, and collaborations. He is currently the Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is co-founder of PennSound.