25 May 2021

Language bondage

So I was writing a special podcast episode for Cirilo Bautista's death anniversary. I re-read his essay, Of Water and the Art of Poetry, published in A Passionate Patience (Anvil, 1995).

In one passage he sums up what we may consider as his ars poetica:

Every poem attempts to invent a language that will free language from the bondage of language. That is a crude way of saying it, but it is the only way of saying it. Though language is the poem's medium, it is also the poem's assassin, and the poet must frustrate it at all cost. His war with words succeeds only when his composition strips them of their patinaed arrogance, bleeds them to death, and resurrects them to a new life. That, of course, is not enough for the idealist who would like the poem to be free of language; but for the present, in this fractured world, that will suffice. Thus, the war perpetuates the crisis, and the poet hardly gets a soldier's rest. [Emphases mine] (p 46)

Elegantly and precisely articulated. And you know what I thought of after reading it, especially the first lines? Gloria Estefan. I'm trying to say I love you, / but the words get in the way.

Then another remembrance, a statement from Alain De Botton, but which exact source and context escape me now. He says, "'Not to find the right words is paradoxically often the best proof that the right words are meant."

I have my own variation on the theme, which I am still drafting in my head and, thinking of Cirilo's belief in the folk tradition, maybe it'll find expression in a podcast or a video, or in conversations once I find myself back in social circles.

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