Poetry corner: The Bilingualist

I wanted to share with you a wonderful poem I had on my wall while I was a student. Of course, it is about bilingualism!




It is called The Bilingualist and was written by R. Federman. Federman was a poet, novelist and academic born in France who emigrated to the USA in 1947 (in his twenties). Many of his writings are about language and/or about having more than one language in your head at one time and the effects of it on his creativity.
This poem is a bilingual poem in English and French but it can also be read in English only and still makes a lot of sense. You can find the English version at the bottom.
Sadly, Federman passed away in 2009. You can find a lot of information about him and read more of his writings here.

Raymond Federman
THE BILINGUALIST (from Loose Shoes. A Life Story of Sorts by Raymond Federman, 2000).

To answer the question I'm always asked [voyons réfléchissons] No I do not feel that there is a space between the two tongues that talk in me [oui peut-être un tout petit espace] On the contrary [plus ou moins si on veut] For me the one and the other seem to overlap [et même coucher ensemble] To want to merge [oui se mettre l'une dans l'autre] To want to come together [jouir ensemble] To want to embrace one another [tendrement] To want to mesh one into the other [n'être qu'une] Or if you prefer [ça m'est égal] They want to spoil and corrupt each other [autant que possible] I do not feel as some other bilingualists have affirmed that one tongue is vertical in me the other horizontal [pas du tout] If anything my tongues seem to be standing or lying always in the same direction [toujours penchées l'une vers l'autre] Sometimes vertically [de haut en bas] Other times horizontally [d'un côté à l'autre] Depending on their moods or their desires [elles sont très passionnées vous savez] Though these two tongues in me occasionally compete with one another in some vague region of my brain [normalement dans la partie supérieure de mon cerveau] More often they play with one another [des jeux très étranges] Especially when I am not looking [quand je dors] I believe that my two tongues love each other [cela ne m'étonnerait pas] And I have on occasion caught them having intercourse behind my back [je les ai vues une fois par hasard] but I cannot tell which is feminine and which is masculine [personnellement on s'en fout] Perhaps they are both androgynous [c'est très possible

 ⎨English-only version⎬

To answer the question I'm always asked. 
No I do not feel that there is a space 
between the two tongues that talk in me. 
On the contrary. For me the one and the other 
seem to overlap. To want to merge. 
To want to come together. 
To want to embrace one another. 
Mesh one into the other. 
Or if you prefer. 
They want to spoil 
and corrupt each other. 
I do not feel 
as some other bilingualists 
have affirmed 
that one tongue is vertical in me 
the other horizontal. 
If anything my tongues 
seem to be standing or 
lying always in the same direction. 
Sometimes vertically. 
Other times horizontally. 
Depending on their moods 
or their desires. 
Though these two tongues in me 
occasionally compete with one another 
in some vague region of my brain. 
More often they play with one another. 
Especially when I am not looking. 
I do believe that my two tongues love each other. 
And I have on occasions caught them 
having intercourse behind my back. 
But I cannot tell you which is feminine 
and which is masculine. 
Perhaps they are both androgynous.

6 comments:

  1. I loved this! My French is extremely rusty, but I still appreciated those bits. Thank you for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome Melissa! I had forgotten this poem and wanted to put it out there again.

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  2. Really enjoyed this, thanks for sharing!

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  3. merci bien pour compartir cela ...
    I've just stumbled upon your blog and it struck a chord with me. Thank you for posting!

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  4. I was born in Peru and married a Sri Lankan-currently living in SL.Thanks for sharing this. I would like to share one poem I wrote on this need to merge...

    WITHOUT SUBTITLES

    My words

    my own migrants,

    se van,

    they go,

    they leave me

    silently or abruptly

    in Spanish

    in English

    with subtitles.


    They carry

    visions of myself

    surrounded by other words

    translating

    my humanity,

    mi propia humanidad.


    Do not want to forget

    no querer olvidar

    nunca

    never

    where I came from

    but where I am.


    That is why

    my words


    keep returning


    taking me back


    to my life here


    where I want to be

    where to say

    how much I love you

    I do not have to look

    for that dictionary on the shelf.

    With you

    in our space


    without subtitles


    in English,

    Spanish

    or


    Sinhala.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your feedback.

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