Monday, February 09, 2009

Notes towards a Renga with Myself (it takes two to renga?); The Wisdom ('Is Dumb?) of Blogging Works in Progess

some star’s light
after we’ve gone


I almost backed over
my son
taking his pedal steel
out the trunk


a pile of earth
on my desk
looking for a hole


“heat is not made
of tiny
hot things”


without sleep
my daughter says
deers’ brains bleed


the world is our body
or rather
vice versa




when I saw
the executions
I stopped believing
Granny says
as I help her to the table


the alphabet is a ruin
reminding us
so the poem says
we build

As ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan proposes, the disappearance of species and the (astonishingly rapid) disappearance of human languages on earth are intimately related, part of the same extinction. From Josh Corey.on new nature writing.

I couldn't sleep last night and so found myself insomniac-walking to my computer, creating the above images and texts. Some of the text came from an old notebook, a tiny verbal slice/slide of whenever that particular notebook page took place. I wonder about posting work which isn't finished, isn't tested and proved, hasn't even seen the sober light of a few days or weeks or years reflection.

But I like the idea of work in progress, of improvising before a virtual audience, like a jazz musician exploring certain approaches, certain materials before an audience, indeed sometimes in recordings. I value my recordings of, say, John Coltrane, where you can hear him in the process of developing his ideas. There are points of arrival, there is the thrill of exploration, of nascency, of a language forming its grammar and vocabulary. Not that I'm comparing myself to Trane. The blog can be an interesting form: a live feed, an up-to-the-minute notebook, an open studio.

And there is something of literature as a living art, as a breathing organism. Step right up to the blog to see some hot mitosis. Or mammals choosing to go back to the sea: What should I do with this extra leg? Do I need this fin, really? Does this gill make me look fat? I'm thinking this fluke is a bit pretentious. One day, I'll be the sleekest orangutan in the ocean, just you wait and see...


troylloyd said...

i love these 2:

" a pile of earth
on my desk
looking for a hole "

" the world is our body
or rather
vice versa "

interesting about " disappearance of human languages on earth are intimately related, part of the same extinction ", i've been trying to learn Swedish & sometimes spend time on svenskspråk forums trying to pick stuff up -- this person indicates a trend of a how an imported language can have a corrosive effect on the native tongue & i'd imagine over generations could totally corrupt the natural mother tongue :
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Yes. Looking at it from our angle, it's an increasing cause of grief. People read so much English text these days that they have started to break up words into their smaller parts in everyday writing, just like they would in English. The phenomenon is known as "särskrivning" ("apart-writing"). Not only does it look really ugly and makes the writer come across as ignorant, it can also make phrases take on very different meanings. Like:

"Extrapris" ("sale") becomes "extra pris" which makes it seem like there's an extra fee today

"Vår kassapersonal" ("our cashier staff") becomes "vår kassa personal" ("our good-for-nothing staff")

"sjönära tomt" ("lakeside property") becomes "sjö nära tomt" ("lake close to property")

and so on...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
...i dunno, i mean i know language evolves over time & i'd say i'm a descriptivist as opposed to a prescriptivist, so i usually go along with how people are actually using any given language -- the ancient Anglo-Saxon is so much different than our modern English, yet it's still inherently the same...hmm, i dunno (again)

oh yeah, i dig the 'Trane analogy, Live From Barwinland : Chasin' the Serif Sans! -- blogging does have that certain aspect of live improv & also happy accidents & also the jam sessions...wave after wave inna electromagnetic ocean.

gary barwin said...

Hi Troy,

Thanks for your comments. As always a charge across the electromaginot line, a lightning strike over the electroimagnetationary ocean. (to form some reverse särskrivningneologisms.)

The idea of fortifying against a colonizing or viral language is interesting. In Quebec, there is legislation which decrees that French words in signs have to be a certain proportion bigger than the English (or other language) words. The store "Eaton's" had to loose its appostrophes. There is lots of "le parking" but, unlike France, there isn't a government body to stop such Anglo incursions. But, I do agree that language is syncretic. English is pre-eminently so. Yiddish also comes to mind. (And as a way to coopt the language of the dominant culture.) Syncretisim is an important cultural process: without it, for example, there wouldn't be jazz. However, you do rightly imply the difference between colonization by a marauding language superpower, and creative fertilization.

I do think a lot about biodiversity when it comes to languages and language expression. I wouldn't want to lose a single isolated dialect. On the other hand, I relish language evolution. There are some language equivalents to the World Wildlife Fund who are trying to maintain language biodiversity. And at the very least, a working archive of spoken and written languages which seem inexorably heading toward extinction.