Archive for January 20th, 2010

Languages

January 20, 2010

I’m rather proud of the fact that Snakeskin gets poetry submissions from all over the world, but I get a bit confused when the verses come from someone who rather obviously does not have English for a first language.

I once asked a correspondent from one of the smaller Russian republics: “Why on earth are you writing in English and not in your own language?”. The reply was: “Nobody speaks my language.”

Since her language was not Eyak, this was not literally true. A Wikipedia check suggested that there were several million speakers of her language.  Maybe what she meant was: “There is nobody who speaks my language who would listen to what I say, and there would be no chance of publishing my poems in my language.”

Well, the Internet makes it possible for anyone to put their thoughts and feelings in the public domain quite easily, and I suggested that she had a go. She might have been surprised by the response, and could well have discovered some kindred spirits.

But perhaps what she really meant was: “I don’t feel as though I belong to the community who speak my language. I belong to a wider global community, and the sign of being global is to speak English, therefore I write my poems in English, to proclaim my true identity.” Read the rest of this entry »