This series started with the intuition that certain works of art to which I am drawn translate the world for and through the liminal body, offering articulations that refract the straightforward, the literal, the dominant. What is the role of ambiguity and the inarticulable in these refractive poetries? Why are these qualities especially poignant for artists from the margins? How do the mechanisms of refraction allows these artists to achieve meaning and truth that is otherwise unlocatable?
This series started with the intuition that certain works of art to which I am drawn translate the world for and through the liminal body, offering articulations that refract the straightforward, the literal, the dominant. What is the role of ambiguity and the inarticulable in these refractive poetries? Why are these qualities especially poignant for artists from the margins?
In investigating the significance and stake in refractive poetics, especially for artists who come from the margins, it is necessary first to ask what is meant specifically by the term refraction: How am I defining refractive poetries? What is it that holds my attention here?
One winter I found myself living in a strange land, in the middle of my own country, somewhere I had never been. No peaks or valleys, miles of flat covered with snow. For a brief time, I earned an income answering calls from all states, tending to a vexed populace, untangling corporate glitches through a headset device.
Inside that monolith of cubicles, patterns of speech shared a certain uniformity, an elongated o, a quickened pace. Where I was from, at least 185 languages are reported spoken, each with an attendant inflection, pitch, timbre. Homesick in my own nation, it wasn't English I missed but the multiplicity of language, even within a single one.
A friend who knows about these things once told me about the existence of a German word, Fernweh, which she translates to mean: feeling homesick for places you've never been. Reverso renders it as wanderlust, but my friend explains the word conveys not so much a lustful craving for travel as a sense of sadness and loss in staying put. A closer approximation might be distance-sickness, filled with all the ache, yearning, and nostalgia that homesickness might evoke, only for far-off places rather than the familiar.
On a December visit from Los Angeles to his native city of Kraków, writer and translator Piotr Florczyk longs for the snow of his childhood, and I think of how weather translates from physical to emotional, personal to communal, into landscapes current and remembered.
They say there is no weather in Los Angeles, but for one who's lived here always, it's a different story. Only in deep winter, do all the camellias open to a riot of pink, the backyard orange tree alight with small suns.
The first time I saw snow in the real world, I was in a home other than my own, an Amsterdam pensione in the century before Airbnb.
Wise navigator of translation, Paul Ricoeur identifies the experience of crossing over languages as both challenge and source of happiness. Equipoise and equanimity arrive via linguistic hospitality, that sheltered inlet "where the pleasure of dwelling in the other's language is balanced by the pleasure of receiving the foreign word at home, in one's own welcoming house." We set anchor there. Low tide, walk through shallow waters to shore. We arrive someplace entirely new — and also strangely familiar.
One is the first positive odd number, an integer not evenly divisible by two. Odd, from the Old Norse oddi, point of land, triangle, the odd point sticking out, not lining up. As Dr. Math explains, the words we use are pictures of the shapes a number makes.