A few weeks ago I introduced the first Logophilia prompt where we focused on virtuosic diction, neologisms, and colloquialisms. For the second part of the prompt we’ll look at foreign language and utilizing terms from specialized disciplines. Welcome fellow word lovers my name is Anna Montgomery and I am excited to return as your guest host for Poetics.
One of my favorite parts of writing is creating a mini-lexicon for each poem. For me, specificity in language is a source of joy. Stuart McPherson after reading Hinba’s Imaginative Invention asked me where I find my words to which I replied: ‘Sometimes I find them lonely and neglected in the far reaches of my inner landscape, sometimes they fly by in jet planes demanding attention, and other times I have to mount an expedition to the Himalayas but what a glorious adventure!’ In less poetic terms some tools I use include brainstorming, the Oxford English Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, foreign language dictionaries and phrase books, The Word Menu, a Reverse Dictionary, Thesaurus, Lexicons, conversations, search engines, and reading research articles, art books and novels. Just as strangers are friends you haven’t met yet, new to you words may soon become favored artistic tools opening up new possibilities of expression. Today I hope you’ll join me again on an expedition into the wilds of language.
To illustrate the use of foreign language and specialized terms within a discipline I’ll use one of my own pieces as an example. Rage to Master was written for Maria Anna Mozart, Wolfgang’s older sister. She was also a child prodigy and paraded through and admired throughout the high society and courts of 18th century Europe. She too dreamed of composing but was thwarted by her father’s refusal to teach her predicated on the prevailing thought that women were incapable of understanding the complexity of composition. Here I use Viennese German and Italian musical terms to craft diction, connecting the poem to the person it is intended to honor. These were her intimate languages.
The definitions of the Viennese German: si ohgfrettn (to struggle); freiheit (liberty); gusta (appetite for something); selbstverstümmelung (self-mutilation). The musical terminology: bravura (a musical passage requiring technical skill and masterful agility); maestoso (play in a majestic fashion); vivace (lively); accelerando (gradually accelerating tempo); con fuoco (with fire); ma non troppo (but not too much); sforzando (play a note with marked and sudden emphasis, then immediately soft); diminuendo (becoming softer); dolce (sweet, gentle); maestro (title of extreme respect given to a master musician).
Rage to Master
Virtuosic musical obsession
aesthetic grace, bravura elegance
harpsichord, voice, and violin
maestoso harmony of liberty
Fall from the vertiginous heights
composition immured within society’s
circumfluent atmosphere of misogyny
Sophistical arguments internalize, si ohgfrettn,
deference becomes a form of self-mutilation
impeding precocious melodies
denying life giving freiheit
Vivace swirls of cascading notes
accelerando of primary drives, gusta,
drowning in the noise of a distorted reflection
Convex mirrors cede self-possession
to the obliterating reign of man
inspired scores, con fuoco, reduce to ash
Abandoning creation ma non troppo
deaf to internal pleas, grief consumes
assents to spiritual suicide
diminuendo dolce maestro
pyrotechnics detonate internally
Sometimes a foreign language is useful in poetry because there is no English equivalent to the word. Tammy Gordin, fellow poet, introduced me to some excellent examples through articles at Mental Floss. Some highlights include Layogenic (Tagalog): Remember in Clueless when Cher describes Amber as ‘a full on Monet…from far away, it’s OK, but up close it’s a big old mess’? That’s exactly what this word means. Rhwe (Tsonga): College kids, relax. There’s actually a word for ‘to sleep on the floor without a mat, while drunk and naked.’ Zeg (Georgian): It means ‘ the day after tomorrow’. Seriously, why don’t we have a word for that in English? Cafune (Brazilian Portuguese): Leave it to the Brazilians to come up with a word for ‘tenderly running your fingers through your lover’s hair’. Yuputka (Ulwa): A word made for walking in the woods at night. It’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin. Gumusservi (Turkish): Meteorologists can be poets in Turkey with words like this at their disposal. It means moonlight shining on water.
Please write a poem incorporating one or more of the suggestions above: incorporate a foreign language; blend in highly specialized vocabulary or jargon (perhaps as a central conceit); or focus on crafting your diction in a way that creates an aesthetic. Additional sources of inspiration: Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent at Mental Floss here or here
Here’s how it works…
- Write your poem
- Post it on your blog
- Click the Mr. Linky button below, and in the new window that opens up input your name and direct url of the poem
- Have fun and visit others who have taken the challenge
- Share via your favourite social media platforms