Presented at the Audiatur Poetry Festival, Bergen, Norway, Sept. 29, 2007
I wrote this poem as part of my attempts to explore the poetical possibilities offered by writing in foreign languages. For some time now, I’ve been speaking for the poetry of English spoken as Second or Nth Language – the real lingua franca of the present world that curiously still lacks its literature – or for Literature of Barbaric English, as I like to put it (a term originally coined by the Brazilian poet Régis Bonvicino during a discussion in Sao Paulo in May 2006).
These attempts of mine can be seen as connected to some larger issues, such as questioning the idea of centrality of language for human experience – a crucial tenet of the 20th thinking, as aptly outlined by Alexander Skidan yesterday. Against that idea, I think much of the most interesting contemporary poetry can be seen as explorations into a certain outside of language – as searching for a point where a certain original foreignness of language can be seen and studied. Indeed, if language always is – as I think it is – something learned and attained, it cannot be constitutive for humanness – even in Lacanian or Derridaian terms. One aspect of all this is of course the question of relation of body, the human corporeality, to language, which Caroline Bergvall seems to be exploring in her ”Cropper” from which we heard her read so beautifully yesterday.
I’ve read parts of my Norwegian poem publicly both in Finland and in Denmark, starting from my understanding of spoken Norwegian being a kind of Danish, and Danish again being a language best spoken with a hot potato in your mouth. Curiously, the Finns always seemed to love that remark, whereas in Denmark, it was followed by a deadly silence.
Now, the day before I left for this festival, I spoke to my 21 years old stepdaughter Miina, telling her that I’m going to read in Norwegian. From her I learned that among Finnish youngsters, the expression, ”speaking Norwegian”, has recently gotten a new meaning: it is used as an euphemism for throwing up, for vomiting. Those kids actually seem to ask each others questions like, ”How was you late night”, and answering, ”No meni taas Norjan puhumiseks”, ”O, I again ended up with speaking some Norwegian”. Or, ”Well, the night was terrific, but in the morning I almost had to speak Norwegian again”.
With this new advice in pronunciation, then, I think the stakes are high enough now for the first integral public reading of
which is dedicated for Paal B-bj-bj-bj-bj-bj-bj-bj-b-j-e-LKE Andersen…