Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Last night I was at a poetry reading and a fellow was reading a poem in Spanish. Now I only remember minute snippets of high school Spanish so in a sense it was a blur of words - yet there was a precision in his delivery. Despite lack of comprehension on my part there was a sharpness of content being communicated and expressed before my very eyes and indeed I was “looking” at words much as one would a sign post or even a strange plant or tree. I’ve been tossing around the idea lately of learning a foreign language, some thing that it is far removed from English in structure, some thing more ancient or based in different alpha characters or symbols, perhaps Sanskrit, Hebrew, or Arabic. I’m often intrigued by how a language that is structured differently affects the thought process of those who speak it. So, by learning a new language and working towards fluency in that, I’m curious how stepping out of the gestalt of my English tongue, and processing ideas through a different linguistic construct, will affect my expression of ideas through writing. I’m feeling more and more serious about this idea. I have a lot on my plate now but perhaps I ought to start clearing some room to embrace this long term experiment. I believe it was Samuel Beckett who wrote all of his plays in French. It not being his native tongue, it forced him to truly think about each line, each word, each thought. In the end I find it quite miraculous, that as animals, we can even deduce ideas and emotions from words. But listening to a cat’s meow, dolphin’s chuckle, bird caw, perhaps there are subtleties of timbre that are conveying a different construction of language. My cat must be telling me something when he purrs. I have chalked the cat’s purr to being their physical equivalent a sort of laughter, a giggle. My good friend Ian Randall once stated on a drunken evening, King Cobra peeking from the paper bag, “Language is just agreed upon nonsense.”

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