Poetry and Language

While technically not related to foreign language, poetry is still a form of language in and of itself. It is the language of the muse, art, beauty, and all the unspeakable wonders of the world. In Robert Hass’ poem, “The Problem of Describing Trees,” he explains that the sensory experience of the tree is unknown to us in reality. The aspen has no vocalized language to explain its actions when a wind comes upon it, and Hass believes that poems about nature are poets’ attempts to describe the experience of the tree in our own language. Similarly, foreign languages communicate all sorts of sentiments and beliefs, which may or may not be universal. For example, Kannada speakers are more than familiar with the word sankocha, which has no equivalent in any language that I know. The best way I know to explain it is as embarrassment when you get some obligation you didn’t really want (getting a really expensive gift or having to stay for dinner when you just came for tea or something like that). The experience of sankocha is unique to Kannada speakers in this way, and translation is the method of interpreting it and rephrasing it in a language one can understand. Poetry is a language to be learned to understand the non-human experiences and conditions of the world. Here are some other poems that I’ve written, if you care to read them. Leave your comments, and tell me what words in your language don’t exist in others!

The Cemetery Shore

I met a stranger on the shore

Outside the overgrown cemetery,

Searching for something lost

 

The stranger’s face was clouded

With strained, pained recollection,

Trying to voice a silent echo of the past

 

This loud silence resounds in me

A memory of that shore of long ago,

Which was once full of life, returns in force

 

Your image was clear in my mind

Like the once clear water of yore,

But is now clouded by the stranger

 

So fleeting is your remembrance,

A beach washed by the ebbing tide

And stripped of its soft white sand.

 

Only as you age and grow wise in time

Do you come to those distant, foreign shores

Where message bottles wash upon the sand.

 

I strove to impress a splendid epithet

To carve my grave in your cemetery

Of long-gone childhoods and adolescence.

 

I was inspired to write a brilliant letter

To fit in my bottle for you to find

So that you might seek me out.

 

Shall I be as a shell upon the strand,

An admirably pretty, precious husk

To decorate that lacking tombstone?

 

Might I be a simple stone buried in the sand,

A detestable pebble uncovered only by force

To find a dream you thought forgotten?

 

 

I can no longer touch your soul like in the past.

My power to fix myself in your graveyard

Is but a shadow, a weak silhouette of a lost star.

 

I see you now, on this shore that we once shared

In our childhood and seasons of our youth,

But you are no longer who you were, nor am I.

 

Your name for my image is no longer mine,

I am unborn until acknowledged by you,

Forever confined to a womb of oblivion.

 

Lightning

 

I am struck by a lightning bolt

Issuing forth from that ominous

Cloud, sent by that cruel gale.

 

At a distance of time, that gale

Was but a smooth, cool zephyr

Carrying hope, love, and dreams.

 

Perhaps this concentrated blade

Is the violent shattering of the zephyr,

Striking me with the full force of life

 

That callous, cloudy vessel drifts

Ubiquitously, bringing its omens

To each and every azure firmament.

 

Yet now, blackened with cruelty,

That tempestuous harbinger

Does away with my optimism.

 

Even so, that swift, wicked strike

Leaves me a small vestige of hope

To store in that fickle, turbid mass

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sr3934@nyu.edu

I'm a student studying at NYU, hoping to pursue a career in diplomatic services, and I'm obsessed with learning and teaching foreign languages. I like to practice Taekwondo, enjoy Square Enix video games, and engage in Asian-American social activism and international political activism.