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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

LOL Literatures in Other Languages: "A Flea" by Anne Tardos

16 April 2009
"A Flea" by Anne Tardos

On her website (as of today), Anne Tardos presents seven poems, all of which except for one are in English. Reading the English poems, one can easily grasp her sensibility (an exquisite one). The exception in terms of language is "A Flea," a poem made up of lines in various languages. I have to admit that I do not know most of the languages used and, therefore, can enjoy only the music of the lines when I read them as spelled (hopefully, some of the languages do not behave like French, where spelling and pronunciation are not exactly identical twins!). In the manner of New Critics focusing only on a line instead of tackling a whole work, let me write a little bit about the following stanza:

When we exit a room we make room
Walking distance apr├Ęs-vous resistance

The first line is straightforward: by leaving a room, we cause space to be created inside the room, since we vacate the space that we used to occupy. The second line takes us a few minutes later, when some distance (walking distance) away from the room, resistance (a French word here, not an English word) appears in the room, because the space created both expands and contracts, not knowing what to do because we are no longer there. Of course, there is an allusion to "apres moi, le deluge," or more precisely, this is a commentary on that well-known quote (which, btw, is itself poetically ambiguous, since people still wonder if it was King Louis XV or his lover Madame de Pompadour who said it first). The sense (we don't know if our leaving makes any difference or not) complements the sound (internal rhyme, both aural and visual), since the clash between aural rhyme (room / room) and visual rhyme (distance / French resistance which has a different sound) mirrors the indecision of those we left behind. Truly, apres nous, le deluge. (Let's not forget that the poem is entitled "A Flea," with an undertone of the same sound flee, as in flee the scene.)
Posted by Isagani R. Cruz at 5:34 AM



Albert B. Casuga said...

Anne Tadros seems to be speaking in tongues. Of course, rational psychology has come up with evidence that the linguisic center of the brain is indeed capable of multiple language skills. Hence, the polyglot. Will this lead to a "global brain"? The brain has always had this capability -- it is what extends man's grasp beyond his reach. It may make for a cosmopolitan citizen of the world.

A multilingual poem will take a long time in gaining currency, nevertheless. I cannot appreciate even the sound system claimed to be its main asset. It is creating a babel of sounds and truncated expressions that in the end will fail to communicate. Of what use is language then, if its medium fails to communicate?

Better to master the traditional use of language and the energies of poetry and the various forms of literature first, before forcing a melange of interlaced languages to form communication lines that are probably not there in the first place.

Of course, nomadic people are forced by necessity to learn the language of the places they immigrate to. Tadros is no exception.

This is not to debunk the legitimate experimentation inherent in word formation. So far, however, only miming has succeeded in making a universal language of body movement. If the body can do it (something we share with the rest of the animal kingdom), can linguistic/verbal/glottal faculties do the same? Too time consuming for a mode of communication, don't you think? One can do better than lose precious life time on it. How useful is the effort on yoking several languages together in an ostensive effort to convey more truth and palpably configure reality as "reality"?

Ultimately, how effective is multilingualism in the realms of phenomenology and epistemology?

By the way, I can always tell that the fellow I meet in the street is a Filipino when he smiles and raises his eyebrows, or when he points to something or someone with his lips (pointing to someone with your index is not polite, remember?) Abuelo is doing the Filipino again!, my grandchildren would chorus when they espy on me doing these during family gatherings.

I am happy with that capability. -- ALBERT B. CASUGA

16 April, 2009 21:01

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