Lost in Translation by James Turner

 Lost In Translation


meditation on a remark by Les Murray


Chinese poems are nothing like The Sun,

The Daily Mirror, Times or Guardian, yet their

translators multiply their words to get their

drift or they’d sound like headlines. GOTCHA! FUN


A bit like History, no?—whose sieve retains

just diagram bones while detail-dapple drains

away to dark. All leaf, all flesh succumbs.

I have a nightmare. I’m being sucked by Time

down History’s anticlockwise plughole, drowned

for being sole witness to the world’s worst crime.

Meanwhile the notes for my unfinished book

are turned to sludge and then piped underground

to join the thick-polluted stream Shitbrook.


Shitbrook was the stream that flowed just south of Exeter’s city wall and into the River Exe. After the cholera outbreak of 1832 it went underground as the Barnfield Brook Sewer.


James Turner

James Turner lives in retirement Exeter. He spent most of his working life as an unqualified library assistant. He writes poems rather than anything else because they can be so short. For five years he co-hosted Uncut Poets, Exeter’s monthly poetry event at the Phoenix Arts Centre. He likes listening to classical music and birdsong, especially blackbirds. He likes going for walks to get a bit of a nature-fix. His first collection of poems, Forgeries, was published by Original Plus in 2002. Whether there will be a second remains to be seen.


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