Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Poetry that mixes mother tongues – and my poem about my Grandma

My very dearly loved Grandma, Martha Magdalena Schreuder, long passed on.

It is very hard to make two different languages rhyme. This struck me again when I was researching the phonetic symbol for a “J” with two lines through its stem, for the review of Howard Jacobson’s novel J. Some sounds and letters exist only in certain phonetic alphabets. The guttural uvular fricative “g” (for instance /χ/ /χut/ as in “goed”), which is a frequent sound in Afrikaans, does not occur in English. The closest is the “ch” sound like in the Scottish Gaelic word “loch”. But it does occur in a handful of other languages including Spanish, Dutch (of course), Persian and Kurdish. (But having said that, below is one of my poems, in English and Afrikaans, about my Grandma. It features this particular uvular fricative “g”.) I have recently been listening to the band Orange Blossom, particularly the song Ommaty from their 2014 album Under the Shade of Violets. The lyrics are sung in Arabic and I must say I find the repetitive /χ/ very pleasant to listen to even though I only have a vague idea what the words mean.  Continue reading

Artists turning into authors – Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

Worst.Person.Ever. by Douglas Coupland (Vintage Canada, October, 2013)

Swapping art forms is tricky

I am acutely aware of the fact that having a talent or skill in one line of art, does not mean you have the same level of skill in another line. A good actor does not automatically become a good screenwriter or novelist. A good painter does not automatically become a good sculptor. A good multimedia artist does not automatically become a good writer.

Rather, chances are that a mediocre or amateur painter will be come a mediocre artist in another medium. Each art form has its own skill set, its own techniques, its own history, context, methodologies and discourse. Enter into the world of a specific art form and you are dumped headlong into a world as different from whatever else you had been doing, as chalk is to cheese.

Change from the world of entertainment or art to that of commerce and you are in yet another world. More than one celebrity has discovered that moving from acting to fashion design or retail takes new skills, a lot of work, and a lot of learning. And even so, might not succeed.

How did Douglas Coupland fare in this transition? Go directly to the review.

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