Prageeta Sharma

Conflicting Englishes

Cheap signaling and vernacular poetry

Dohra Ahmad's anthology Rotten English collects non-standard English writing
Dohra Ahmad's anthology Rotten English collects non-standard English writing

Since I’ve been offering commentaries about multilingualism for several months now and haven’t yet devoted any time to addressing poetries that use nonstandard varieties of English, I want to turn my attention to that particular elephant in the room. The question of what type of language poetry should use is, to employ another familiar expression, as old as the hills. Debates over what Wordsworth called “the real language of men” and its place in, or relation to poetry are at once passé and radically contemporary — a source of perennial debate.

This past summer, the publication of Daniel Tiffany’s essay “Cheap Signaling” drew renewed and welcome attention to the question of poetic diction and how it ought to relate to “real” language. Tiffany explores a wide array of contemporary poems that use a “fabricated language of the ‘underneath’” to queer “the diction of poetry,” mixing “a nice tranche of idiomatic talk” with the “glam-tags of theory.”

Plus this

Additions, updates, & singles

Image by Noah Saterstrom

I want to backtrack a bit and link to some recordings related to earlier commentaries. Rather than update the older posts, I’ll periodically add new tracks to expand previous playlists. I’ll also make some new unthemed playlists of singles segmented from longer recordings that I came across while browsing PennSound’s reading series pages.

Additions and updates:

Listen to Prageeta Sharma read an epistolary excerpt from her book Bliss to Fill recorded at the Belladonna Series in 2000. Read about and hear other recordings related to letters in an earlier post, Dear Pennsound.

Listen to Sina Queryas read Numb is more natural, from her book Lemon Hound, at a 2006 Belladonna Series reading. Hear the entire reading. Read about and hear other recordings related to questions in the post, What is a question?

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