Poems

Finger ♥s Blade

Notes

Uten Mahamid is from northern Thailand, and our literal translator Mui Poopoksakul began by explaining that he is a very modern poet, breaking away from elaborate fixed forms to write in free verse and inspired by his practice as a visual artist. We decided to start with this poem as it contains such a strong central image. It reminded me in many ways of Sylvia Plath’s ‘Cut’ in which she chops her thumb whilst preparing onions and images spill out – axed scalps, civil war, a bottle of ‘pink fizz’, a ‘trepanned veteran’. Here the central image has the same mixture of cartoonish glee and gore. The finger is marrying the blade in a ceremony both ‘super sweet and so darned painful.’

Thai often doesn’t use articles – Mui explained you might say ‘go school’ instead of ‘I’m going to school’ and described the language as having such brevity it can be ‘almost like a bullet.’ We spent a lot of time in the workshop choosing between the/a/its/my/her/his etc. The first two times we use ‘the finger’ as we thought the poem creates a sense of distance, although later it becomes more clearly ‘my finger’. We chose ‘its heart’s content’ so the satisfaction could either be the finger’s or the blade’s. It adds to the slightly queasy masochistic charge of this poem.

‘Syllables’ was another word we agonized over. The original is closer to ‘letters’ but means letters of the alphabet. In English, letters expressing congratulations at a wedding would make us think of physical, posted letters. We played with ‘words’ but thought that didn’t sound weird enough – we wanted to suggest all these jumbled fragments of speech turning up at the ceremony!  

Clare Pollard

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