This is What’s Inspiring me Today (Part 2).
Linh Dinh is obsessed with the things that everyone else turns away from. Which also happen to be the things that we stare at, hard, when we think no one else is watching. Linh Dinh is obsessed with porn and poop and fat and homelessness. With disheveled bodies and the boundaries that define what’s “unseemly” and “appropriate.” He seeks discomfort, and finds it all too easily.
In other words, he keeps his eyes open and looks. Continue reading
I love seeing the things I create inspire other people to create things too.
Especially when these things come back to me in the form of tastes and smells and stories and music. Suddenly, the world is a conversation. It’s not about me anymore, my thoughts and experiences. It’s about what surrounds me. Which frankly is quite a relief. Humans didn’t make cave paintings to sit and stare at by themselves, after all.
For instance, Continue reading
This is the longest poem that I translated as part of a poetry project in 2005, as a student at Naropa University.
Despite not speaking the Creole language, I was inspired to explore the poetry of Haiti by my dear friend, Dominique, who is Haitian and also a writer. I first began reading Haitian poetry in an attempt to learn about the culture of a person whom I admire and care for, and ended up realizing how little I knew about the history of Haiti, despite my own country’s influence on its ups and downs. (There is a great article exploring this topic in today’s NY Times.)
I made a conscious choice to translate poetry originally written in Creole, rather than French, because Creole has long been the language of Haiti’s disempowered majority—less than 10% of the country can read and speak French, despite the fact that it was the country’s official language until 1961. For many writers in Haiti and in the Haitian diaspora, to write in Creole is a political statement, a conscious effort to include all Haitians, and not just an educated elite.
As I dug into the Creole language, word by word, I discovered for the first time that a language is actually a worldview.
Syntax and vocabulary are not only tools for communication, but for organizing and understanding the world that surrounds us. The moment that I really understood this was when I looked up the word “poverty” in my Creole-English dictionary and found that it was also the used to describe a “hollow tin can.” The power of this image is breathtaking, and one that belongs solely to Creole.
I decided to dig up these poems and share them online when I read an email from Dominique earlier this week. She wrote that amidst the heartbreak of seeing the country that she loves so much in devastation, and her worry for family members still living there, she has been focusing on the beauty of the country, its history and culture:
“The most beautiful sight I remember ever seeing was in Haiti. And people associate Haiti with ugly, but I see beauty in the complicated history. I see beauty in what I know of Haiti, not what people think they know or read.” I believe that it is important for us to send our appreciation to the people of Haiti, for their accomplishments and artistic vitality, as well as our aid at this difficult time. Let’s remember that it’s a country of life, and not just devestation.” Continue reading