Note til skribenter: Brug aldrig et ord, du ikke forstår

Det kan gå grueligt galt. Så blot, hvordan det gik my man Robert Browning:

In 1841, Browning published the long dramatic poem Pippa Passes, now best known for the lines “God’s in His heaven/ All’s right with the world.” Toward the end of it, he sets up a kind of Gothic scene, and writes:

Then, owls and bats,
Cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

The second of these lines created no stir at all, presumably because the middle class had truly forgotten the word “twat” (just as it had forgotten “quaint,” so that Marvell’s pun on the two meanings in “To His Coy Mistress” has fallen flat for six or eight generations now). A few scholars must have recognized the word, but any who did behaved like loyal subjects when the emperor wore his new clothes, and discreetly said nothing. No editor of Browning has ever expurgated the line, even when Rossetti was diligently cutting mere “womb” out of Whitman. The first response only came forty years later when the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, collecting examples of usage, like Johnson before them, and interested to find a contemporary use of “twat,” wrote to Browning to ask in what sense he was using it. Browning is said to have written back that he used it to mean a piece of headgear for nuns, comparable to the cowls for monks he put in the same line. The editors are then supposed to have asked if he recalled where he had learned the word. Browning replied that he knew exactly. He had read widely in seventeenth-century literature in his youth, and in a broadside poem called “Vanity of Vanities”, published in 1659, he had found these lines, referring to an ambitious cleric:

They talk’t of his having a Cardinall’s Hat;
They’d send him as soon an Old Nun’s Twat.

“Twat” blev altså i Brownings kilde ikke brugt om noget, en nonne kan tage på hovedet … sprogbloggen citerer Oxford English Dictionary, der som sin mest konkrete betydning har pudendum muliebre. Av.

Revolutionens poesi

Sharif S. Elmusa skriver i den egyptiske avis Al-Masry Al-Youm om, hvordan revolutionerne i Egypten og Tunesien har vækket befolkningens slumrende poetiske bevidsthed, og hvordan netop poesien har været blandt de elementer, der har båret revolutionen frem:

The political comes the morning after, although it’s articulated in slogans, drums and chants during the days of mobilization, and even long before that, in the daily sighs and dreams of the oppressed. Although we may adduce all kinds of “factors” to the eruption of the revolution, we cannot use them to explain its timing. The sudden synergy of hundreds of thousands of people chanting loudly and in unison, their joy drowning their aches as they inhale the air of freedom, defies rational explanation.

Great creative works, like Handel’s symphony The Messiah or Melville’s Moby Dick were made after periods of deep gloom. In the Arab world, revolution has poured out of the deep well of despair and loss of confidence.

The late Nizar Qabbani, the love poet of the Arab world, who also penned much political poetry, wrote “the Arabs have died.” Mahmoud Darwish said “Egypt is not in Egypt.” But pain and suffering were as fertile as Egypt’s soil, green as Tunisia itself. They have reawakened the spirit, opened the portals of the body and the body politic.  They have ushered Egypt back into Egypt and Tunisia into Tunisia. You could see the metamorphosis and hear it in the performance of the crowds and their words, in the free wheeling slogans and the rhyming couplets.

They rendered acts of poetry–cleaning the streets, regulating traffic, protecting the national museum, guarding houses, breaking bread with someone–even more poetic. These mundane acts became inspiring moments, like that of a poem, spawning a new spirit, free of the dust that had settled on the conception of work and on those who perform it day after day. Writing a poem and engaging in a revolution are both acts of self-discovery.

The revolution dignifies the ordinary, and elevates it, just as poetry transforms common words into rhythms and meaning.

Never will the privileged person who swept leftover food, cigarette butts and plastic containers into a pile in the street think of the street sweeper as lowly again–just like what a poem about a street sweeper does, it dignifies the person and the work.

Never will the person who helped formed a ring around thugs to prevent agitated comrades from meting out spontaneous justice forget the meaning of magnanimity. A poem that is not imbued with a spirit of forgiveness is an ersatz poem.

Never will the person who guarded the museum go by it again thinking it is just another building. Standing guard by the house of antiquities is like a poem about lost objects, about lives vanished; it keeps them alive for as long they last.

The words that revolutionaries make are poetry, even if they are not meant to be. Language under authoritarian regimes rusts, turns dull, loses its edge and luster. Revolution restores to words their truthfulness, meaning, even magic. The first word of the revolution was “The people want to bring down the regime.” It is the people who want, not the ruler. The declarative statement is economical, uses the active verb, and announces the expiry of the old order. It is in itself an act, a performance.

Sharif forklarer videre, hvordan den egyptiske opstands helt grundlæggende slagord – “Folket ønsker at vælte regimet”  – faktisk er en henvisning til et digt af tuneseren Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabbi.

Link: Poetry of the Revolution