multilingualism

Anne Tardos, five from 'Uxudo'

Uxudo is Anne Tardos’s interlingualist book of 1999 (Tuumba Books/O Books). At an “After-Englishes” event in Manoa, Hawaii, that same year, Tardos gave an introduction to the Uxudo project. She then read passages from the book. Here is a sampling of five poems/sections:


“She Put It Mildly,” p. 55 [audio segment here; audio recording starts at 00:00 here]. Click on the image above for a larger view of the text.

Abdellatif Laâbi's 'In Praise of Defeat'

Archipelago books — maybe right now the finest US press truly turned toward and tuned in to the world beyond these Benighted States — has just released a gorgeous eight-hundred-page bilingual tome of the Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi’s Selected Poems under the title In Praise of Defeat. The choice of poems is the author’s own, and the excellent translations from the French are by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Rather than “review” and laud the book here now, I’ll own up to the fact that it was my great pleasure to write a foreword for the book, which I’m reproducing here below. Enjoy, and then buy the book — don’t let the heft make you hesitate: the book — in Archipelago’s usual square format — rests well in the hand, is a pleasure to handle and read.

Versatorium:

Translation as social project — Austria and elsewhere

Neuberg Train station, Neuberg, Austria
Neuberg Train Station

After the unfathomable swarm that was the Women’s March in D.C., I find it both difficult and necessary to return to thinking about the small, local, intimate actions that are the focus of this series of posts. Necessary because massive gatherings, though exhilerating, are also largely symbolic and affective (unless they actually shut things down), while the actions I am writing about are concrete, direct, and (inter)personal. Difficult because actions both small and slow provoke feelings of panic in a time of such painful crisis.

Between the Devil and God

Li Zhimin’s 'Zhongalish'

Photo of Li Zhimin (right) courtesy of the Kelly Writers House.

Best known in China for his translations of J. H. Prynne into Chinese, poet and scholar Li Zhimin is known in the US primarily as a fixture at Chinese American Association of Poetry and Poetics conferences and as an editor of the poetics journal Espians. In his English-language book of poems, Zhongalish: Think and Feel Globally, Li continues his cross-cultural work by exploring the lyric subject as a linguistic construct, as well as examining the mutual influence of Chinese and American “avant” poetry practices generally.

Xeno / with audio

Omar Pérez in Playa, 2010.  Photo K.Dykstra.
Omar Pérez in Playa, 2010. Photo K.Dykstra.

Xeno-, OED: “before a vowel xen-, repr. Greek ξενο-, ξεν-, combining form of ξένος a guest, stranger, foreigner, adj. foreign, strange”


Xeno-, OED:  “before a vowel xen-, repr. Greek ξενο-, ξεν-, combining form of ξένος a guest, stranger, foreigner, adj. foreign, strange”[i]

Holland

"Bla," drawing by Omar Pérez
"Bla," drawing by Omar Pérez

 “Cubanology” is a book of days. The poet, essayist, and translator Omar Pérez (b. 1964, Havana) began writing this multilingual notebook from 2002 –2005, while living temporarily in Europe.  His journey began as a short professional visit, then shifted into something less defined after Pérez fell in love with a woman named Christina, who plays an important role throughout the notebook.

Burning for peace

Erín Moure's O Cidadán

Erín Moure
Erín Moure

In preparation for this week’s commentary, I was flipping through TCR’s recent special issue on multilingualism, and I came across a very interesting essay on translation by Erín Moure. The essay is structured as a kind of journal or daybook recording the process of translating Québecois poet François Turcot’s Mon dinosaure into English. Mouré describes translation not as “bearing across” (get it?!), but as “a poiesis,a making. Each small piece of the Turcot poem, in English, takes hours of building, forming syllables, seeing how they interact.”

Sounds outside of English

Sonnet L'Abbé's 'Ghazals for Zahra Kazemi'

Sonnet L'Abbé
Sonnet L'Abbé

Earlier this week, I received an email from a friend of mine, the poet Sonnet L'Abbé. She sent me one of her poems, "Ghazals for Zahra Kazemi," which appears in her book Killarnoe (2007). The occasion for the gift of this poem was the deaths of two Canadian soldiers in two separate incidents: when I received Sonnet's email, I was listening to a news report in which the two incidents — which took place in two separate provinces, on two different days — were blended together and blamed on radical Islam. Sonn, it emerged that the shooter in the second incident was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a person with an apparent "Arabic-sounding" name.

Multilingual sounds

Coca-Cola's "It's Beautiful" vs. LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs's TwERK

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs's TwERK
LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs's TwERK

Is multilingual poetry any different from other representations of multilingualism in contemporary culture? In my previously two commentaries, I've looked at some of the things that multilingual poetry does differently than other kinds of poetry. But what does it do differently from other cultural forms that are also multilingual?

One recent example of a multilingual cultural text is Coca-Cola's 2014 Super Bowl commercial "It's Beautiful," which was also shown during the Sochi Olympic Games. This ad touched a nerve because it features eight tween girls singing "America the Beautiful" — but they do so in, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hebrew, Keres, Senegalese French, and Arabic as well as English (quelle horreur!). Beginning in English with a shot of a cowboy on a white horse, the ad includes diaphanously lit outdoor scenes, wholesome images of kids in a movie theater, surfers bobbing on the waves, break-dancers, a family on a roadtrip, a brightly lit Chinatown. Representations of urban modernity and rural tradition are seamlessly interwoven, and all differences are overcome through the shared melody of the girls' multilingual hymn. 

Why languages?

Garry Thomas Morse's '500 Lines'

Garry Thomas Morse's Discovery Passages
Garry Thomas Morse's Discovery Passages

Multilingual writing has been ubiquitous since — when? The ancient Romans used it to pay homage to their literary forebears and for expedient communication. Medieval poetry mixed Latin with vernacular languages. And the modernists, of course, delighted in linguistic collage. In the 1980s, Chicana feminists moved between Spanish, English, and Spanglish as they composed their autohistorias. Meanwhile in Quebec, Francophone and Anglophone feminists collaborated on translational corps/textes.

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