28 January 2009

Powell's question # 1

Adam Donaldson Powell asked five bilingual writers ten questions about writing in languages other than your own. I want to be an uninvited interviewee. Here is the first of my unsolicited answers to his questions:

"In an age of increasing bilingualism/multilingualism in written, performed and published poetry one might wonder what the drive or impetus is. Would you say it is: a) a need/desire to reach a global market; b) a need/desire to stand out from poets who are only writing in their mother tongue; c) a personal ego-trip or a form of literary "extreme sport"; d) an awareness that many things simply must be expressed in a foreign language; or e) all four of the/some of the preceding; or f) something else?"

E, or all of the first four. (a) I write primarily in Filipino, and there are not too many readers in that language, compared with readers in English (in which I also write). (b) I have an arrogant, condescending, patronizing, holier-than-thou attitude towards monolingual or linguistically-challenged writers. (c) Of course, writing is an ego trip; why else would a writer put his or her thoughts out there on the pretty egoistic assumption that other people will want to spend time reading them? Writing in another language is also a game I play with myself, and since I cheat by having a dictionary at my side, I always win. (d) I love Filipino, but there are things I cannot say in it (such as what I have been saying in this paragraph). Oh, and there's (f) something else: everybody I know in the Philippines writes in English, even if nobody in the Philippines has English as her/his mother tongue, so I'm merely exercising my herd mentality.

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