Sunday 28 March 2010

New reading

The last few weeks have seen me caught up in a succession of trade fairs. It's been hectic but endlessly fascinating. For example, I love listening to my Spanish colleagues dealing with other nationalities in English. Or rather in a new language that's derived from English, casting new light on it.

This context makes returning to poetry even more of a cleansing process than usual. Gwen Harwood's Mappings of the Plane's on my desk at the moment and I'll blog about her poems in due course, while a couple of extremely promising Happenstance pamphlets are also pending my attention.

Monday 8 March 2010

The Plough Prize Awards

The Plough Prize awards will be taking place this coming Saturday in Great Torrington. There'll be a slam, a free workshop and readings from the winners. I'll be reading my poem "Instructions For Coming Home", plus a short selection from my forthcoming Happenstance pamphlet if there's time.

From Torrington I'll be heading back to Sussex before a vicious schedule of two trade fairs in different countries in a week. First off will be the Prowein fair in Düsseldorf, followed directly by Alimentaria in Barcelona. Here's hoping the new vintages go down well!

Tuesday 2 March 2010

A second language

I'm grateful to Katy Evans-Bush over at the Poets On Fire forum for pointing me towards Don Share's recent post about bilingual poets in which he quotes Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill on this issue. She invokes inner war, displacement, anxiety, psychic pain, etc, etc...

My own experience is very different. I's important to start by clarifying terms: I'm not bilingual and never will be, in spite of spending fifteen years in a small Spanish town where I've been the only native English speaker for much of that time. I can't be, even though my Spanish is perfect, simply because I wasn't brought up as such. However, my immersion in a second language has led to a heightened awareness of nuances in English. Spanish has cast new light on the way English works, its nuts and bolts, its socio-cultual connotations, its means of expression. All this has made a huge contribution to my poetry.

My son, meanwhile, is completely bilingual. Again, clarification is useful at this stage. He's not just the son of an English bloke - he's as at home in English as he is in Spanish. The two languages complement each other and have never caused conflicts for him. He's simply more aware of his identity than most kids of his age. Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill's plight seems to have more to do with her specific situation than with bilingualism in general.

Immersion in two languages, through bilingualism or second language acquisition, has the power to strengthen rather than dilute. The more counterpoints we have in life and poetry, the richer our perspectives become.