Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Language taking shape

This weekend I was browsing through posts by some of my favorite bloggers when I came across a linguistic work of art - literally.

19-year-old Sharanya, a student in Mumbai, turned a poem by Yves Bonnefoy into concrete poetry. Calligrammes such as this one are in the style of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, born in Italy to a Polish mother. The words (or even letters) of the text are arranged to make up a shape - often a shape connected to the subject of the text or poem. In this example,

Sharanya chose Bonnefoy's poem La Lumière du Soir and illustrated it as a hand moving over a half-sun and a half-moon.
La Lumière du Soir, by Yves Bonnefoy
Le soir,
Ces oiseaux qui parlent, indéfinis,
Qui se mordent, lumière.
La main qui a bougé sur le flanc désert.
Nous sommes immobiles depuis longtemps.
Nous parlons bas.
Et le temps reste autour de nous comme des flaques de couleur.

And the English translation by Emily Grosholz:
The Light of the Evening
These birds who talk together, indefinite,
who peck and quarrel, light,
The hand that moves along the silent flank.
We have been motionless for a long time now.
We're whispering.
And time lies round about us like pools of colour.

Sharanya's representation of the poem made me think about using calligrammes as a language learning tool. What better way to disect a beautiful piece of poetry in another language, then put it back together in a way that is uniquely yours.

I'm thinking of tackling a poem by Léopold Sédar Senghor. What about you?

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