11 January 2011

Macaronic, yes, but not anymore

It is sad that a standard reference book, The New York Public Library Literature Companion (2001) perpetuates the prejudice against multilingual poetry through its definition of “macaronic verse”:

"MACARONIC VERSE.  Verse that incorporates two or more languages.  The form originated in the 15th century, when Tisi degli Odassi wrote comic poetry composed of vernacular words with Latin endings, but gained popularity through the work of his student, Teofilo Foleago.  Poets since have exploited the humours potential of mixing languages.  Less commonly, noncomedic poetry can also be referred to as macaronic, as in the work of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot."

The definition, by citing two of the greatest poets in the English language, deconstructs itself.  Perhaps the word "macaronic" is similar to the word "negro."  We cannot deny the historical fact that both words were indeed used in the past to denote a certain class of poems or people, but as the human race grew in wisdom, we have since abandoned those words for more accurate, less value-laden terms.

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