Toby Fitch is poetry editor of Overland and a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Sydney. His book of poems, Rawshock, won the Grace Leven Prize in 2012. His creative PhD, consisting of a poetry collection The Bloomin’ Notions of Other & Beau and thesis, ‘Themparks: Alternative Play in Contemporary Australian Poetry’, won the 2017 Dame Leonie Kramer Prize in Australian Poetry. His latest book of poems is Where Only the Sky had Hung Before (Vagabond Press 2019).


Chris Edwards’ mistranslation of Mallarme’s Un Coup de Dés

Maintaining the visual form of Stéphane Mallarmé’s proto-visual, late Symboliste poem, Edwards’ ‘A fluke: A mistranslation of Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés’ (2005) is a clever and ludic mimicry that parodies Mallarmé’s notion of pure literature at the same time as achieving a kind of pure ‘litter-chewer’, rustling and mucking about in the gutter of the double-page spread and in the gulf between itself and Un Coup de Dés. This essay explores how the mistranslation of a poem can act like the strange attractors of chaos theory by playing on Edwards’ paranomastic techniques in homophonic transliteration, and, via Kristeva’s theory of the abject, it exposes how mistranslation can take the exemplary poem and over-exemplify it, bend it over, queer it to the point where historical dichotomies of sign and signified, subject and object, exemplary and non-exemplary, break down. This essay even raises the question of whose poem came first, and whether the Master of Un Coup de Dés is in fact Edwards, not Mallarmé.

Keywords: translation – mistranslation – poetics – Australian poetry – French poetry – Chris Edwards – Stéphane Mallarmé – Un Coup de Dés ­– symbolism – puns – homophonic translation – experimental poetry