Hugh Thomas’s work as a mathematician takes him around the world to conferences and residencies, which has contributed to the polylingual mishmash out of which his poetry arises. Hugh has lived in Winnipeg, Toronto, Chicago, London, and Fredericton, and currently resides in Montréal, where he teaches mathematics at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Intentional mistranslations that meander through the maze of language.
Drawing on the patterns of words, speech, and identity we encounter in the wider world—subway ads in Mexico City, a Dutch-Japanese phrase book, multilingual airplane safety instructions, one of Italo Calvino’s invisible cities—the poems in Hugh Thomas’s Maze playfully translate the maze of languages and language into moments of amazement.
Many of the poems in this book began life as a piece of text in another language, and are brought into English through a combination of accidental misunderstanding, deliberate misunderstanding, guesswork, mischief-making, and finally, some attention to what it could mean for the result to hang together as a poem. Other poems were created similarly, starting from source poems in Polish, Portuguese, Hungarian, German, Dutch, Albanian, Swedish, Ancient Greek, and French.
In Hugh’s own words: “What I saw in any one of these linguistic funhouse mirrors is not what someone else would see, and is not what I would see on a different day, or reading a different poem. The reader is welcomed into the moment of this particular poem, and encouraged to find their own way through it.”