Annual subscription to Modern Poetry in Translation online for only £14.00.
Full refund within 30 days if you're not completely satisfied.
page:
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
clip to blog
page:
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
clip to blog

24

Constantine

difficultbusiness, beinga passage notreally fromonelanguage into another (though Niki constantly spoke of sign as her languageandEnglishas ours), but fromonemedium, or even fromonewayof beingintheworld, intoanother. Athingwe takeforgranted–thatmanywordsinapoemwillbearbotha literal anda figurative freight –made a halt intranslation againandagain, while the double senses were disentangled. The epithet ‘bible-black’, for example; the well-knownfirst line‘Shall I comparetheetoasummer’s day?’; andeventhe comical idioms of everydayspeechsuchas ‘Pigs might fly’ or ‘Raining catsanddogs’,allhadtobeprocessedintointelligible sense, before they couldbe translated, or better, re-invented, re-created, insign. We were beginning to understand, by the time our discussionsended, thatsignhasamongitsresourcesmanythat languagepoets wouldacknowledgealsoas theirs: agrammar andsyntax; degreesof clarity, rhythmandpace–all thesenot in words and their groupings and sounds, but in ‘a facial vocabulary’, a fluency and quickness of the hands, the dispositionandmovementofthebody.Anuance, ambiguityor ironymightbeconveyedby thepositionofalittlefinger orthe raisingof oneeyebrow, or thepointingof thechin. Inpoetry workshops participants would be tutored in the learnable thingsbutalsoencouragedininventiveness–inthevaryingof signs, for example, andthe devisingof newones. Apoem wouldgothroughdraftsonvideo, notonpaper. Niki Johnsonthinkssigningisnatural. Todeaf babiesborn of deaf parents it is themother tongue. Theybabbleinsign, theirmotherssignthemstories. Naturallythen, signwillhave itsownpoetry, strangetothehearingobserver, butpersuasive too: a language without words, the whole body’s language, movinglyexpressive.

DavidandHelenConstantine WithgratefulthankstoNikiJohnson, DebbieParkes, Pauline VernonandCatherineRogers. Alyss Dye

Word Blindness

My daughter reads:

Billy Blue Hat, was, no, saw, the old, the l i t t l e, the l, the cat in the road. No. the little yellow cat. Yes. the cat nt we, was. No, spell it out. W e n t. Was? The. No. to Roger’s home. No. house.

She flings the book aside and says ‘I hate books!’