Friday, June 27, 2014

A Room of My Own: Why Believe You Can Write Verse in English?

I paint
a daisy on the wall
and sign it
with my Romanized name ...
morning mist rising

To write verse in English is not like growing ideograms inside your heart, reaping the sentences matured by the muse of desire, taking your clothes off with words, exposing yourself in the rhythm of the stanzas so that you can hold your passport and cross the borders of linguistic solitudes, emigrating from the ideographic to the alphabetic.

English still remains an unmastered means of deciphering the musings of your heart and mind, it is constantly intruded upon and twisted by inflections from the old language. Often, you are not able to connect emotions to words, to feel the weight of their syllables. Without emotional vocabulary, everything becomes elusion, confusion. The fear of things you needn’t be afraid of.

Even if you can find the right words to reflect your feelings, you are not skilled at weaving these into sentences. They simply become isolated cries clinging desperately to your heart. Even when you can find a way to weave words together into an artistic whole, the poem often fails to conform to the texture mandated by poetry editors. Why believe you can write verse in English, whose music is not natural to you? 1

I skip
a stone of words
across the lake
of another time
another place


Note: The concluding sentence is taken from the last two lines of “An Exchange,” a poem written by Nan Wu, the poet who is the protagonist of A Free Life, Ha Jin’s fifth novel.

1 comment:

  1. As Chinese-American writer Ha Jin emphasized in an interview with Dave Weich, “[dealing] with the question of language is at the core of the immigrant experience: how to learn the language–or give up learning the language!–but without the absolute mastery of the language, which is impossible for an immigrant. Your life is always affected by the insufficiency.”

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