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Friday, December 3, 2010

Without Language in Córdoba

"Without Language in Córdoba" is one of my favorite poems I ever wrote. Now you can read it in its entirety in the amazingly high quality Apparatus Magazine! Please also see a photographic preview at YouTube.

The theme of the issue is "Translation," a theme dear to my heart. Interpreted widely, it pertains to people trying to communicate in any way they can, and so encompasses most of human experience.

The poem came to me during a study abroad experience in Córdoba, Spain. As we realized more every day after we got there, Córdoba was the original melting pot. In spite of the discomforts it implied, the blending of peoples, languages and cultures created an experience so astoundingly beautiful, it can still be felt today in the air that passes through.

My room mate (and best friend) was having a tough time. She loved Spain (I like to think I had something to do with that) but October is always emotionally raw for her. One day she just got up and went for a walk while it was still dark outside, and contemplated the serenity of the Roman Bridge in the early morning light. By the time I woke up, she was back and telling me about the adventures she'd had. Anywhere else, they might have been commonplace, but the setting made them almost mystical.

Only my friend can say what parts of her walk I made up myself for the poem. I've forgotten, because with time, the poem becomes the reality. "Without Language in Córdoba" honors her expedition: the finding of something extraordinary right there in her surroundings; the way she felt she was beginning to belong to this place she had arrived in only weeks before; and, a personal favorite theme, the inability of words (in any language) to fully comprehend experience. With that in mind, I use empty space and translations of place names that seemed comical to us at the time, and leave "madrugada" (sunrise, daybreak, etc) untranslated. I had fun dicing up words to show their origins: "break/ fast."

In workshop, the other members were sorely disappointed to hear that I wasn't writing about something that happened to me personally. I think one of them claimed she would continue pretending. That's absolutely fine. I don't think the poem is injured, no matter who the subject is. What is imagination for if not to bring vivid experiences to people who never had them?

Take a look at the poem here. I'll also add the link to my "famous publications" page.
"Without Language in Córdoba" is one of the centerpieces of my collection Dusk Before Dawn.