Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Nice to see Kelli Russell Agodon and Timmy Liu in Crab Orchard Review: Ten Years After Documenting a Decade which I am reading straight through. A small miracle because I am finding it hard for most journals to hold my attention that long—I could barely get into Mary Karr’s article on religion and poetry. I know there has to be something in there but I am not finding it.

In the mail yesterday: Crab Orchard and An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets (I’m in heaven.) At the moment I am reading Anna Swir’s Talking to My Body. Thank you Miss Laurel K. Dodge for pointing me in her direction; she is simply amazing.

Which of course leads to the question of the day, is there an advantage to having English NOT be your native language as a poet? Does it allow you a deeper ability to stretch words? One of the things I try hard to do when teaching drawing and painting is to teach my students to loose themselves in an object. Stand there and look until the jar is no longer a jar. I’m famous for taking a painting and making my students stand on their heads….now tell me what you see?

I understand the basic principle in art, if one looses the object it has the ability to take on other form. But do I understand this in word? If all cars are called rutabagas, how does this change the function of a car? And if you speak several languages you already know in one tongue a word can mean this, another that.


LKD said...

Isn't Swirm swell? Thank Jenni Russell because she's who turned me onto Swir. I'm going to go dig my copy of Swir out from under the pile next to my bed right now so I can read her before I go to bed tonight.

Oh, and hey, once upon a time, 30lbs of candy wouldn't've been safe around me. I seem to have lost my sweet tooth in my old age though. (grin) Seriously, I used to hoard chocolate just so I'd never run out of it ever. Now...the thrill is pretty much gone.

The best damned candy bar I've had in a long, long time though is called Take Five. Ever have one? It's the dreamiest thing imaginable: A pretzel covered with a layer of caramel, then a layer of peanuts and peanutbutter, then the whole thing is dipped in chocolate. It's heavenly. Chocolate and peanutbutter, salty and sweet, sticky and crunchy. Yum, yum, yum.

LKD said...

Um....that's SWIR, not SWIRM!!!

early hours of sky said...

Okay now you have me hunting the pillowcases for that kind lol

Lyle Daggett said...

Poetry begins before words. It begins in the silence (or the non-wordness) before words. This, I think, is the word equivalent of standing on your head until the jar is no longer a jar, until the jar loosens from itself and becomes a shape and lines and shadows and play of light. Even a few moments of attentive silence can bring out whole poems sometimes.

A thin tree alone by a lake. The chilly air between the wings of three or four crows. A few chunks of gravel by a shoe, air the texture of water. Shadows among pine trees. A woman's tired face on a bus. Laughter fleeting from a doorway late at night.

There may be an advantage to writing in a language that is spoken and written by a comparatively large number of people, in that there is likely to be a larger body of literature overall (just because of sheer numbers -- Chinese, as an example), so more examples to learn from and build on. Though a lot of cultures and countries whose languages tend to be concentrated within their national borders are highly literate and literary -- Greece, Japan, Korea, Finland, Iceland, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, to name a few.

If you write in a language that's widely spoken (like English or Spanish or Arabic) it might be slightly less difficult to find readers than if you write in a language concentrated in a smaller region of the world.

In the United States the whole question is skewed by the fact that writing from other languages isn't translated (or published) here as much as it is in many parts of the world. A selection of Tom McGrath's poems translated into Russian in the '80's sold out in the Soviet Union in an edition of (if I remember right) 50,000 copies.

I really like Anna Swir's poetry too. In case you're interested and haven't seen it, I have a post on my blog about Swir from a little while ago, here.

early hours of sky said...

Lyle, thanks for posting that link and you are right, it is all about silence.