Losing Things

I just read Gina Barreca's post, Everything You Lose Makes Room for Something New and it reminded me of two things. One, a vilanelle by Elizabeth Bishop that I have a love-hate relationship with called 'One Art'. Although it's 'about' the death of her partner, my favorite lines are:

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

The whole poem is here.

The second thing this post reminds me of is my own just-so postcard that Shanti sent me from Geneva when I was studying in Lahore. The quote, from Jules Renard, reads:

Ecrire, c'est une façon de parler sans être interrompu.

Multilingual poetry!

I found this bit of gorgeousness via languagehat, a blog I've only just started reading.

Antoine Cassar writes in five different languages, but rather than write one poem in one language, he has attempted to "braid" all five together into single poems, called Muzajik or Mosaics. The results are intriguing. The first and third link will take you to some of his poems, and while you're there I'd recommend listening to the posted recordings. I've found, in my brief encounter with them, that the different languages gel well with each other and form very interesting poetry. He's woven the sounds of the different languages together wonderfully in the poems I've heard so far (Go listen).

In the Chimera piece(first link), Cassar says:

"...the mosaics are more than a mere linguistic challenge. Having lived in five different European countries and languages, I find it difficult to decide which tongue I feel more at home with. Although I still write monolingual poetry occasionally (particularly in Maltese), I believe that selecting one, or even two, would mean sacrificing others, and to a certain extent, I feel that making a choice would also imply a political decision. Why the fixation with one as opposed to many?"

I think that's what immediately appealed to me. Being multilingual, one tends to code-switch - or at least want to code-switch - quite a bit, and it is sometimes frustrating to have to limit oneself to just one language when another would fit a particular situation so much better. Given that there are probably more bilinguals and multilinguals in the world than monolinguals, it is worth asking why the majority has to limit itself for the sake of the minority. (And the over-generalized answer, probably, is that the minority is more powerful or influential - neither of which is to be construed as pejorative.)

There are more things to address here, not the least of which is Cassar's project to include languages he does not speak into the mosaics, but as the project is, as far as I can tell, still gathering steam, I expect there will be more opportunities to do so. In the mean time, I'm just going to go enjoy what there is.


I dislike middles intensely. I have an idea, I have images, I have symbols, I have a story and I have research to back them all up. I also have a beginning and an ending. All I'm missing is about, oh, 135 lines of middle.

Which really isn't that much to come up with when you think about it, specially when it's just the middle that needs to be placed neatly between a tidy beginning and a strong ending. But this one's different. This one's surly. I've written and re-written and cut and tightened and squeezed and stretched, but it's still all flabby and jiggly and even saggy in bits and I'm beginning to suspect it ducks out to gorge on candy bars when I'm not looking. Tsk. No discipline.

Urdu poetry

The Urdu Poetry Archive is probably the most comprehensive Urdu poetry site I've come across so far. It contains over 1,800 poems by about 343 poets and has an alphabetical listing of both, which makes it easy to locate whatever you're looking for. It hasn't been updated for a few years though and I hope it hasn't been abandoned - it's a fantastic resource and, since the poems are transliterated (according to a painstakingly uniform system that it's worth your while to get to know), people who speak urdu but have trouble with the script can still access the poetry. There aren't any translations up though, but I suppose that would be a whole other project.