13 May 2009

Mixed language poetry contest

Last year's Mixed Language Poetry Contest drew a number of entries. Diehard, oldfashioned literary critics might snob such a popular attempt to draw out multilingual writers and the entries may not pass equally oldfashioned formalistic criteria, but the contest shows that some kind of emergent (to use Raymond Williams's word) literary culture is at hand.

Here are the first lines of one of the winners, "La Emoción no sabe Ninguna Lengua" by Carpe Noctem (a penname):

L'émotion ne sait aucune langue

Every day smiles go unnoticed, even more so the tears;
some people have no one to confide in, joyous rhapsody or fears.

El amor es dicho cada día sin el significado, y los corazones se rasgan en pedazos
las almas amargas funcionan salvaje y lo liberan, no dejando ninguna ocasión para cualquier clase de lanzamientos.

While the desire to use several languages in the same text is commendable, the technique in this particular poem is not particularly to be desired, because the poet uses the languages one at a time, instead of together. The poem is multilingual rather than interlingual. I think that, for a multilingual poem to achieve greatness, it should (as in T. S. Eliot's) shift to a different language because the mother tongue just does not have the capability to express whatever the poet is trying to express at that point. There is no way in English to say what Baudelaire said so well in French (hypocrite lecteur), so Eliot had to write his line in French. The lines above could be written in any of the three languages; the choice appears to be idiosyncratic rather than organic.

1 comment:

  1. Good morning Sir Ganni,

    I agree Sir, that poem appears to be idiosyncratic. Yuck! It's like a merry-go-round.

    It's like saying:

    Salamat po.

    Thank you.

    Gracias... etc.

    How does one write and edit at the same time?

    Or: change clothes quickly?


    I couldn't feel anything for this poem

    I'm sorry, because maybe I don't understand how it was crafted. Maybe if - on its own - like all Filipino, all English, all ??? or how about making it sound better, together?

    but.. it says something from "the heart," then maybe there is truth in it.

    Have a nice day, Sir.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    GOD bless po,