30 June 2010

Barbaric poetry

Here is a recent blog reaction to Leevi Lehto, calling him "radical":

"Finally, for a more radical suggestion I turn to the ideas of a Finnish poet, Leevi Lehto, a specialist (among others) in American experimental writing, who has devoted many essays to the issues of translation and the relation of international poetries. He observes that the most widely spoken language in the world today is 'English spoken as Second - or Nth - Language,' but that this language does not yet have its proper literature. Therefore he advocates the production of 'barbaric poetry': that as a Finn, for example, he might write original work in other languages - including, perhaps, languages he can not even read himself (and in fact Lehto has done so). Internationalism, then, is not to be achieved by everybody speaking the same language, but by everybody coming to the same uncontrollable pluriformity of languages from an uncontrollable pluriformity of linguistic positions. Radicalizing a poetics of misprision, language and nation would then no longer be fundamentally linked. Instead there would be a 'new kind of World Poetry not yet in existence,' a poetry that might involve 'independence vis-à-vis National Literatures, including institutionally [...]; mixing of languages; borrowing of structures – rhythmical, syntactical – from other languages; writing in one's non-native languages; inventing new, ad hoc languages; conscious attempts to write for more heterogeneous, non-predetermined audiences…' (quoted from his essay Plurifying the Languages of the Trite). Recent examples of similar approaches in Dutch literature might include Arjen Duinker's original work in other languages or Rozalie Hirs' multi-lingual text-and-electronic-sounds composition, Brug van Babel, based on quotes from poets in many different languages."

I disagree that the "new kind of World Poetry" is "not yet in existence."  As I search the Web, I find numerous multilingual texts (which I try to alert readers to through this blog), but more important, I am trying to push the idea that even apparently monolingual texts are actually multilingual.  Multilingual texts are only the most obvious examples of how languages interact with each other in literary texts.  Apparently monolingual texts require a lot more effort on the part of critics and readers to distinguish the separate languages used by the writers (consciously or, more usually, unconsciously).

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