“Well conservant conversant with the English language.”
One NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) prompt was to write a poem that contained at least five words in another language. I wrote this one, about linguistic blunders in a cross-cultural world. Been there, done that?
Day 1 in the U.S. of A
How do you take your coffee?
she asked, and I said
In a cup, s’il vous plaît,
a big one,
I’m so jet-legged.
Later we found out
that we both knew Pierre,
and I said Oh mon Dieu
and she said OMG
and Get outta here,
so I left.
In one of their daily prompts, NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month: write one poem a day in April) asked us to write a “book spine” poem based on titles in our bookshelves.
One of the titles in my bookshelf is Knut Hamsun’s Hunger (1890). It describes the painful birth of a writer, an unnamed young man who wanders the streets of Kristiania (former name of Oslo), trying to keep his dignity and sanity. His hunger is both physical and mental, and at one point he almost eats his pencil. Occasionally, he earns a little money by selling an article to a newspaper, but he is unwilling to take other jobs (he deems it unfit for someone of his abilities). In the book, he relates his experiences from his walks and from his encounters with people. He ends up signing on a ship and leaving the city. I think any aspiring writer can relate to the constant drive inside that anonymous writer.
There are seven book titles hidden in the poem. Find them if you like. 🙂
I am an undernourished author,
hungry to create
I walk the city streets
in a ceaseless chase for words
and, in all honesty, recognition,
to become a king on writing
I can hear the bells toll ten, eleven, twelve times,
as if to put a number on my
failed, once great, expectations
Just after sunset,
I stumble through the door
at the inn where I lodge
Another long day’s journey into night
comes to an end
Hurt feet, hurt pride,
but not willing to settle for
the God of small things
Hannibal Lecter knew where to hit with his words. In The Silence of the Lambs, he tells Agent Starling, “You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that accent you’ve tried so desperately to shed? Pure West Virginia. What’s your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you … all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars … while you could only dream of getting out … getting anywhere … getting all the way to the FBI.”
The dialogue goes on:
Starling: “You see a lot, doctor. But can you point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you — why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to…”
Lecter: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chi-an-ti.”
Call me treasonous, quote all the scriptures you like. I reserve the right not to applaud you and not to abide by your ordained dress codes or praying positions. I reserve the right not to keep my mouth shut or my pen silent. I’m a big girl now.
History is full of Yes, My Lords and Ja, Mein Führers and Certainly, Your Eminences and Holinesses. We should have learned the lesson by now.
“But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”
— From “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen