Monday, 2 July 2012

Translating Dolphin Poetry

(An apology: another thing I promised myself I wouldn't do, even when promising you the opposite, was return to topics I've already covered. But seeing as I'm burning to write more about Fantômas, and seeing as I've been breaking promises generally lately anyway, I'm going to take this opportunity to return to the subject of the Illuminatus! trilogy. Sorry.)

At last Friday night's Improv Networking Meeting at The Miller, I took the opportunity to make a quick announcement about dolphin poetry, but the 60 seconds that were allotted to me weren't quite enough to explain my proposal fully. This may explain why it was met by frowns and smirks of incomprehension.

I was recently struck by an episode in The Eye in the Pyramid, the first part of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's gargantuan comedy conspiracy-theory headfuck. Our hero George Dorn has just been initiated into the Legion of Dynamic Discord by way of a grotesque ceremony that involves fucking a giant apple. He is aboard the nautilian submarine – the Lief Erikson – with the secret society's charismatic leader Hagbard Celine, swiftly approaching the ruins of ancient Atlantis. They are suddenly joined by Howard the Dolphin, who talks and sings to Hagbard and George through an electronic translation circuit built into the sub's control panel. Hagbard explains to George that, due to the limitations of his equipment, Delphine poetry can only be rendered as doggerel. Stuff like:

Right on, right on, a-stream against the foe
The sallying schools of the Southern seas make their course to go.
Attack, attack, with noses sound as rock
No shark or squid can shake us loose or survive our dour shock.

Dolphins are mad for epic poetry. For the past forty thousand years, they have been improvising their story in epic form, and the vast and marvellous Porpoise Corpus awaits recognition by human interpreters. "It will be," says Hagbard, "as if we'd discovered the works of a whole race of Shakespeares that had been writing for forty millennia."

Crucially, Hagbard also explains that dolphins invented psychoanalysis thousands of years ago.

"They have highly complex brains and symbol-systems. But their minds are unlike ours in very important ways. They are all in one piece, so to speak. They lack the structural differentiation of ego, superego, and id. There is no repression. They are fully aware, and accepting, of their most primitive wishes. And conscious will, rather than parent-inculcated discipline, guides their actions. There is no neurosis, no psychosis among them. Psychoanalysis for them is an imaginative poetic exercise in autobiography, rather than a healing art. There are no difficulties of the mind that require healing."

It occurs to me that a human computer composed of several minds working in synergy would be sufficient to translate the Porpoise Corpus properly. I'm keen to assemble a group of improvisers, or willing Seekers, who are prepared to undergo the process of merging their egos, superegos and ids sufficiently to form a psychic connection with dolphin thought patterns. Working as a group, we would be in a position to listen to dolphin and porpoise songs and produce a meaningful English translation.

Please contact me by email or in the comments section below if you are interested in assisting with this project. Even a small fragment of the Porpoise Corpus, successfully rendered into English, might have far-reaching implications for the future evolution of human literature and society.

The only hurdle my scheme faces is in finding compliant dolphins. There have been no dolphins in captivity in the UK since 1993, when the last female dolphins were relocated to the Continent from Flamingoland in Yorkshire. Obviously, wild dolphins are more likely to collaborate than any housed in dolphinaria, though the logistics of working with them are, on the face of it, insurmountable.

In the autumn, I will be holding an experimental trial run at a suitably damp London venue using recorded dolphin songs. Watch this space for further updates.

1 comment:

  1. Michael, I would love to be involved, 100%.

    Watch out for the fnords.