via B Good Science
“…working class intellectuals like big words and their sentence formation is excessively ornate. It’s what they think of as ‘smart.’ Pomposity. It’s an embarrassing condition of being unsophisticated and not knowing what is truly smart which is simplicity and modernism…” —Eileen Myles
It would be a mistake to think that received grammar is the best vehicle for expressing radical views, given the constraints that grammar imposes upon thought, indeed, upon the thinkable itself. But formulations that twist grammar or that implicitly call into question the subject-verb requirements of propositional sense are clearly irritating to some. They produce more work for their readers, and sometimes their readers are offended by such demands. Are those who are offended making a legitimate request for “plain speaking” or does their complaint emerge from a consumer expectation of intellectual life? Is there, perhaps, a value to be derived from such experiences of linguistic difficulty? If gender itself is naturalized through grammatical norms, as Monique Wittig has argued, then the alteration of gender at the most fundamental epistemic level will be conducted, in part, through contesting the grammar in which gender is given.
(from Gender Trouble, pages xix-xx)
I just read a beautiful translation of Véronique Tadjo’s Queen Pokou by a prof here at New College, Amy Baram Reid. Amy was my professor fifteen years ago; one of my favorite classes in college was her course called New Worlds, New Stories: Women Writing in the Americas. As a matter of fact, I discovered one of my all-time favorite books, Michelle Cliff’s Free Enterprise, in that course, as well as developing a new appreciation for and understanding of gender politics through literature.
In Queen Pokou, Véronique Tadjo re-imagines the 18th-century Western African legend of Queen Pokou, who according to said legend, threw her baby into a river in order to appease the gods and save her exiled people. The river parted, Pokou’s followers crossed, and the Baole people were born out of Pokou’s cries: “Ba-ou-li. Ba-ou-li (The child is dead).”
This book exists as a series of concentric maybes. It’s beautiful in its rendering of the grief of a mother to, alternately, the fear-inducing power of a queen coming into her own. One iteration of Tadjo’s re-imagining, “The Atlantic Passage” asks, “But what if Abraha Pokou had refused the sacrifice?” and takes Pokou and her son to the Americas via the slave trade.
Being a big fan of retellings in their ability to redistribute power and deconstruct prohibitive worlds, I like what Amy Baram Reid says in the book’s afterword:
February 25th, 2011 / 2:26 pm
From a 2003 interview with Robert Birnbaum:
RB: And then there are the attacks on writers like Morrison and Salman Rushdie and DeLillo and now young guys like Franzen and Foer and it strikes me that they are being attacked by people who haven’t read them…
PE: It’s always easier to condemn something when you haven’t read it.
RB: But why get so worked up? On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that people are passionate about these things.
PE: If that’s really what they are passionate about? If somebody is really offended by the artistic sensibility of some writer that would be a great discussion. But if they are simply jealous of that person’s success or something personal, I don’t get it.
From ABC of Reading
by Ezra Pound
‘Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.’
Dichten = condensare.
I begin with poetry because it is the most concentrated form of verbal expression. Basil Bunting, fumbling about with a German-Italian dictionary, found that this idea of poetry as concentration is as old almost as the German language. ‘Dichten’ is the German verb corresponding to the noun ‘Dichtung’ meaning poetry, and the lexicographer has rendered it by the Italian verb meaning ‘to condense’. READ MORE >