Douglas Clark: Waffle -- 5

We all speak an idiolect. From our parents and their friends we inherit a dialect. Then as we progress through life other dialects impinge on us influencing our speech. We may use different dialects in different circumstances. We may travel to other countries and have other languages influence our idiolect. Some people acquire second, third and even fourth languages. All influencing each other.

It is the words that we talk to ourselves in our head that make up our idiolect. This is the true voice of the poet. As Wordsworth would have thought it. Pierre Joris visualises the poet as a nomad passing alone through the languages of the world and only alone in the silence of his head.

In Europe, with the Treaty of Rome, we are rebuilding the Holy Roman Empire. One day it may even turn out to be the Roman Empire itself reborn. It is to be a Europe of the regions. Which is to say the dialects. The languages and their associated allies. There is no intention for a worldspeech like English to dominate. Each individual dialect or language is to have its place. This would bring tears of delight to Hardy thinking of his Wessex or Hölderlin thinking of his Swabia.


Reading Charles Olson's `Beloit Lectures' tonight brings me to think of Yeats' saying that Poetry is the argument with ourselves. I would rather say that it is the argument with the Other inside our selves. For some that tension is caused by love and for some, like Olson, by a place. That tension provides food for the obsession out of which the words and phrases of poetry generate their rhythms.


And a word for Michael Ondaatje's beautiful new book `Handwriting' (Bloomsbury, 1998). Beautiful both in its presentation and in the language. A mix of the West and the East. Quite sublime. Recommended to everyone, be they innovative or mainstream, to see how it should be done. I wish it had been longer than its 78 pages.