Language leads to more language. – Kim Addonizio
I don’t know how to do it anymore. This poetry learning route has completely stopped the impetus that has got me rolling on this path. Now, the more I read, the more I am taught, the less I am capable or confident. I had somehow snuffed out the tiny spark in me. The desire remains, the impulse to make poems remains, but the ability or the spontaneity has been killed. I am thinking too much, hearing the shushing sounds too much. I can’t shut it off. It’s like when you become aware that you are breathing. You don’t know how to breathe anymore. All you could do is to fake breathing which is very exhausting.
The same is happening to me. Suddenly, this language has become more foreign than ever. The sentences are all mangled. Words overlapping with each other competing for attention, and yet none fits to the thought.
This frustrates the hell out of me. Makes me feel like I am incapable of learning or retaining. Which makes me think of aging without functional memory or learning brain. Which sets me on a spiraling thought that goes beyond mortality and senility.
My brain is a strange creature, which sees the world with warped lens at times especially concerning learning in dimensions. It appears to have trouble taking in the totality of a subject. Because I see things in bits, in two-dimensional plane, often times what I perceive as the right way to learn turns out to be not true. This Seinfeld quote always fascinates me. If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.
Ain’t that the truth of (my) life? Here’s a shining example: for the last ten years that I’ve been living in this house, I have been unable to park my car in the garage in a way that will make enough room for my husband’s car. Like the rest of middle-class American families, our garage is too small for our big cars. I kept aiming and failing to find the right spot so both of us can get in and out and carry our various bags without bumping into each car. Husband kept complaining about my parking inability, and I kept getting frustrated at this seemingly simple task.
And then one day, he said something that seemed like non-sense,”Why don’t you try aiming to the side wall instead of trying to find the right place in the center?” The first response I had was, “What?” Whoever heard of driving into the wall? But then, after a while, I thought, Why the hell not? What I’d been doing wasn’t working anyway. So I did, and guess what? It works. We now have enough space between the car that we no longer have to walk side-way to squeeze in. This may seem ridiculous to you all normal drivers with great spatial orientation. For me, the one without spacial depth processing, someone has to tell me to aim (what I perceive as) the wrong direction to end up in the right place.
This gets me thinking, as with all the things in my life. I’ve been beating my head trying to win over my very lovely and foreign lover, English language, since I was five years old. I’d gain words and sentences through reading and conversing. I’d memorize the dictionary and thesaurus, copy down words, sound them out, stand next to the person with amazing word bank in the vain hope of essence-transfer through air. And yet, it seems like I have a large sieve for brain. When I pick up new things, old things seep out. I’d become flummoxed when I pick up each piece of word to make me a three-dimensional poem house with intricate designs. I find myself building toddler’s duplo block towers instead of the awesome Lego castles with trap doors and moving knights.
Then, it occurs to me that I need to go back to my old lover – the Burmese language – if I want to seduce my new lover. After all, I have a Burmese brain. I think Burmese. I act Burmese. I am Burmese. The way I look at the world, the way I string my words, the way I breathe, the way I talk, act, sneeze, or peel a banana (from the “bottom” which I call “top”, and NOT from the “handle” stem) are all Burmese. So, yes, in order to be a complex poet who writes in English, I will have to go back to reading, writing, and immersing in Burmese which I hadn’t been doing for the last twenty years.
I am going to aim to the side, while keeping my eyes at the center. I am going with the opposite of my instinct and see where I’d end up in.