Commentaries

Mayer and Good

From left to right: Erica Kaufman, Julia Bloch, Bernadette Mayer and Philip Good — at the Kelly Writers House, October 21, 2014, on a day when Mayer participated in a live webcast conversation with participants in the free, open online course called ModPo, recorded a session of PoemTalk on "February" by James Schuyler, and gave a reading with Philip Good. The recording of the webcast discussion is available here. The recording of the Mayer/Good reading is available here. The events are fully described here.

For Kader El-Janabi: “The French Connection”

[The following short essay & poem were commissioned a decade ago for publication in Kader El-Janabi’s short-lived magazine, Arapoetica de la Poésie Internationale, but with that magazine’s demise or suspension, were never actually published.  The issue for which they were intended was to focus on the connection between American & French poetry over the preceding century.  In its original English version the concluding  poem (“Three Paris Elegies”) had appeared earli

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. 

no one is illegal / the system is illegal

In previous commentaries I’ve written about displacement in Vancouver caused by gentrification in the context of the original displacement of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, the original inhabitants of this land known as Vancouver. Now I want to consider people bought to this land by displacement.

In August 2010, a few short months after Vancouver’s $6 billion Olympic spectacle (the City’s second mega event after Expo 86), 492 Tamil children, women, and men arrived on the coast of British Columbia. Fleeing ethnic persecution and civil war, the migrants boarded the cargo ship MV Sun Sea and began their dangerous 3–month journey. Various state forces intercepted the ship and directed it to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on the southern tip of Vancouver Island before incarcerating the migrants at prisons throughout Greater Vancouver.