Jim Leftwich

Transmutations of Voclalo by John M. Bennett and Jon Cone, Luna Bisonte Prods, 2009
originally published at nakedsunfish.com, 2009
With an afterword by Jim Leftwich

Eel Jug

blastoma mica coy yelp cameo biofuels went off rags
mints delta pelted and not you peel dandy ado o yes puma local frito
jumbo by the gaze

More cilia

chore yr razor ,pluvious
low quests so ,lumpy panfried tomato
,crystal, soggy and mortal ,my
lapis is pendulous .opened
your lapis a pork ago
)yr page ago( yell like air on fire
.rife, meager and a lot of endings


second ,siccamous ,canton ,saga only
flesh tormented antic ,chewling
bees ,o carnal young hilum
formaldehyde .horns in gas
.a sot and a dot o .tuna marriage
beans lost during entranced baja
o vacant grave .late umber ,tea
tome) fundamentally chef(


pea gala
pea lobbing
peel umbrage
peel lap


court azure
cue ending
ute aorta
core ten I do

loaf if

for nearly
if barely
found are


mortal tally
lap pewter
tulip portal
ear eyes,
lamp armada

lob lance

toes are tap
mud OM
mud my tests

home brew

nimble mat
noon brew

Pending enters

.combing two cavaliers
.no ethical costs ,funding
.chapstick a delta ago
lately .formation of
a bistro curtain .playing
in the sum of bodies
,tusk-pie drastic bronco


pesto quietly dies , porno doctor
,well ,humid dementia carpal acting .full
minute loquacious coma bicameral
.feisty tundra student ,bitumen binoculars
feisty .yellows dental brillo sauce

had lancers

lactic o
lab coat
blan ket

vocal aloe

eyes test one day
toast no one
at last lilac
list hums mouse
just empty


ch ang e
ch ang ing
ch op
ch oral


mud dome meat
reap pie or so
my dotted tuna
raisin double
sack of tending

silent onion

brume a few
gloam mantra
lute goal
bionic ego


change against centipedes naive lubrication
tumbling against the primary soap arsenal
facilitates climbing aboard the truck-death
expound scorpions and laminated clavier
fondly adamant especially ajar Pensacola second
lumbering branched teas truly ado about lactose entranced
more for anti desperately camera entrained


chewing the hat
pale nor

new it

tulip lips
rat role
rants ant

.close ace


o so Babylon loose
clam aid or )ale mesa(
zucchini toe-seme
.until no )or new (it
ritually combing camouflage

Road dents

eyes carbon a low window ,tumble in corn
"ego-bandits" delimited ,lamb armada
.floating solo and invisible quakes
mandible localized apparitions of tinted
rectangles .loafing full moon sonata


ecstatic plasma cats you
found in graffiti

ending oblongs


tin toe
flanger go
saran wrap

a lot of zebra

the commissioner of cigarette baloney
the lamp mist conditional intaglio
the fuming steel lock curving immanence
the semolina tasty horndog immaculate
to pillage the taste of Zappa take out the combing lion
to persist in tomb buffoon idiot azaleas


bowl lake death
mole sand

nor the devil on foot

The peril

bisque tour and a mantle
soon damaging ,churning roams
jade or )cicada(suit no
neurotic lake panda lake and on
the first liberal rose


flags bible pews cord razor
nodding misplanned "tall ones"
mysteriously lost comics
,grassy futile eros
,nominal deeds ,wander


fund daring ,fume marks ,hung dirt
,home briar ,dentist tracks ,don't
air your Ventura is
relic .silk ludicrous fuses
yes .temptation why tumbling
,trombone tickles the tunes


first tigers anti-form deem
calamitous my azure sofa
cars and the same brake saltines
even my friends .today in the navy .oil
announced demiknuckled ,cute flowing
tape ,systemic gargling
unto the senders Tuesday

.my veto enlaps portable and sordid

Fink ,Port

tomato what I dermal what I
blinding what I lamps what I
sangria what I same what I
tie-ends what I duplicates what I
suds what I fits what I
legible what I didactic what I
"into" what I mattering what I


endemic attic two phonic feisty
segue Edgar ,loaf thumb balloon .loaf
finger-guided lobes ,the best tea ,bent
rare eye )loop apex exhaling

Light or tripping sick

send information ,pull
antic eye )coming indoors( tree
scent )pulmonary( moon
radar of the piedmont abridged
labor cane the risk spoon
sedated detritus on
a nice lap in circles

Toy Flaccid

pesto demented about detuning
dandy adamant nail loss
peeling the ceiling nose
adage .cut it out ,limber razors
loam barracuda insubordinate
,eyes mint intestines ex-mice
locks chamber music my triple
name is nothing, nor adjacent

Mojave Hole

sagging the iguana )dance zone( too calming
soda, musk-trail chronology
.sorted in a sandstorm puller lactactical
)vent tantra( my canasta formidable
, temple of my timely emperors ,lacking
due trembling quick as an eye limp
is nakedness loam smoke intemperate


A Few Notes On The Process

The primary task in transduction (or homeophonic translation, or transmutation) is to ask how far we are willing to let the mind wander associationally from the actual combinations of letters we are looking at on the page. Do we allow two letters to suggest a five-letter, or even a seven-letter, word? Or will we limit ourselves to something closer in quantity of letters to what we have on the page? Or does merely asking that question seem like an unnecessarily constraining and arbitrary approach? Will we allow ourselves to mix actual denotative translations with our homeophonic associations? If so, will we also allow associations based around those translations?

My approach has always to been to let the mind wander very far afield, following any and all associations, thereby producing something very different from whatever I am using as the source text.

I haven't corresponded with Jon about this subject, but I think his inclination might be to remain a little closer to the source. One of my favorites among his versions is this rendering of "hablanca" into "Have Blanks":

fo nar
` la bo ca
bl anca

Have Blanks

Of near
lakes to go.
The bobcat
is white.
If I look closely at what he has done, I can see the decisions he made during his process: the first two letters of hablanca, ha = have
the remaining letters, blanca = blanks

So, two letters are added to the initial "ha" to produce "have", and the last two letters of "blanca"
, "ca", are dropped and replaced with "ks". The total number of letters has been increased by two during the transduction process.

"fo nar" = "Of near"
The sequence of the letters "f' and 'o' are reversed, yielding "of", and then the decision is made to capitalize the initial 'O'. I appreciate the transpositional decision, but I don't think the capitalization adds anything. In fact, I think it draws attention to itself, without rewarding that attention.

The single letter "e" is inserted in the middle of "nar", producing "near". A case can be made for "nor", and perhaps for "narrow", but considering how the decision was made to arrive at "near" provides an enjoyable poetic moment.

"lactico" to "lakes to go" is perfectly clear as a Spanish-to-English homeophonic improvisation. One word becomes three words, but it requires only an increase of two letters (from seven to nine) to accomplish that.

lac = lake ti = to
co = go

This kind of associational slippage is a good part of the exhilarating fun of the transduction process.

' la bo ca = the bobcat
the initial apostrophe is discarded
"la" to "the" is straight denotative translation
three words are reduced to two, while six letters are increased to nine
the addition of the letters 'b' and 't' is improvisationally playful, a ludic solution to the problem at hand

bl anca = is white
denotative translation, with grammatical adjustments (the insertion of "is") a matter of taste

The overall effect of Cone's transduction is zen-like, almost haiku-like, with a nice touch of comedic absurdity.

Take a look at the following sequence:


bru ma fue
go ,ma nta
lue go la
bio ni ego


Broom is fuel.
Go, man. To
light go there.
By no ego.

silent onion

brume a few
gloam mantra
lute goal
bionic ego
In my version, the title is constructed by adding a 't' after the "silen" of "silención", adding a space, then inserting "on" before the remaining "ion". I have turned one word into two words, and added three letters. I retain the lowercase 's'. Since we are in the process of reading a poem, we might recall Roland Barthes' comparison of the apricot and the onion: "if up until now we have looked at the text as a species of fruit with a kernel (an apricot, for example), the flesh being the form and the pit being the content, it would be better to see it as an onion, a construction of layers (or levels, or systems) whose body contains, finally, no heart, no kernel, no secret, no irreducible principle, nothing except the infinity of its own envelopes — which envelop nothing other than the unity of its own surfaces. (Barthes, Style and Its Image, 1969)

In line one, I remove the space in "bru ma", insert an 'e' after the 'm', and add a space between the 'e' and the 'a'. While Cone keeps the spelling of "fue" and adds an 'l', I decide for a very quick homophonic transmutation, "fue" to "few" — with no consideration at all given to how the word "fue" might be pronounced in Spanish. Eight letters in the source become nine in the transduction.

In line two, "go ,ma nta" becomes "gloam mantra". Seven letters and a comma have become eleven letters. The central 'm' is used both to end the first word and to begin the second word. The comma is permitted to suggest an 'l', which is then displaced two spaces to the left, producing "gloam". The central space in "ma nta" is removed and an 'r' is inserted following the 't', producing "mantra".

In line three, the seven letters in the source become eight in the transmutation. A 't' is inserted between the 'u' and the 'e' of "lue", producing "lute". The space at the center of "go la" is removed and the sequence of the letters 'la" is reversed, producing "goal". In some ways, this line is "translated" not by listening to the sounds but rather by looking at the letters, and asking what can be done to create two words in English from what we have been given in Spanish.

In line four I remove the space between "bio" and "ni" and add a 'c' at the end, producing "bionic". In this instance I think my brain was responding playfully to both Bennett's and Cone's versions of the poem. If Cone writes "by no ego", then I will write an opposite of that, "bionic ego", which is a kind of cheesy absurdity (and as such is very representative of some of the immediate transduction opportunities we discover when doing this kind of work).



Emails between John M. Bennett and Jon Cone, 03.12.2018

JMB: ha! very nice, silent onion, and i like the discussion at the end. Can i send to Jon? he might have a comment or 2 - or maybe you would want to send it

thankee j

JMB: Hi Jon
Jim Leftwich has been writing a series of essays on some of my books, and he took on our Voclalo - what he did was make a transmutation of your transduction, and then comment on it all.

let me know what you think! attached
onword john

Jon Cone: Hi John,

I loved what Jim did with your originals, and his commentary on our collaboration was great fun for me to read. My approach has always been, in such instances, totally improvisational. So, it was enlightening to see Jim analyze a few of my transductions, emphasizing the material techniques I employed. (Though these techniques were unknown to me, even as I used them!)
Is Jim planning on publishing this text anywhere? I hope he does! All best,

JMB: glad you like, and Jim might just add yr comments to the essay part, if that's ok with you - as to publication, stay tuned - jim is still on a roll with these engagements with jmb

hope you're doing well! john

JC: John,

Absolutely fine, if Jim wants to use any comments I might have about our collaboration.

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