Translating Negative Patterns

“Negative Patterns” is a poem in serpentine loop that has turned out to be much more fun to read out loud than I ever expected. It’s a (visual)(sound) poem of simple language based on repetition. I wrote it as a challenge on a writing retreat at Hedgebrook. Shortly thereafter I submitted it to the sound issue of Poetry is Dead edited by Jordan Abel and read it for the magazine as an mp3 file that was released with the issue. Suffering my own voice  while I recorded it in my basement was awful; I limited myself to three takes. The first time I read it to an audience was at the issue’s Western Front launch and it was as squirmy and sweaty as I could have imagined. I didn’t really know what to do with the delivery.

Since its publication in serpentine loop people have shared their positive reactions to “Negative Patterns” (“it’s ripped from my brain”, “that’s too familiar!”). Their excitement and request for it at readings has loosened me up. When I read it now the text is livelier, funnier, brasher and the audience reaction is, too. It’s one of my favourite pieces to read.

An artist in the audience at the last event at St. Stephen’s Church in Boston told me he was glad I had read it and we got to talking and pitched an idea back and forth:

What would happen to the poem if it were translated into different languages?

This is where you come in. I invite you to translate Negative Patterns into a language other than English (Arabic, Spanish, Cree, French, digital, pig latin…etc). The words are simple and straightforward so it should be un-tricky. Please send a recording of yourself reading it – video, voice note, or a pdf of the text. It will be interesting to hear new, multiple representations of the poem.

Email me at eleethursdays (at) if you have questions, suggestions, ideas and I can post them here.

I’ve extracted a jpeg/pdf from the book so you can work from it if you don’t have a hard copy: negative-patterns-1