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LANGUAGE: In a Word, a World

October 2, 2018

Words are written language, and carry for us the breath of life.

As a writer, words are my paints on my palette, my tools in my tool box.

Words are everything — and they are nothing if we don’t imbue them with power, with meaning, if we don’t follow the advice to “choose our words wisely.”

Poets and writers are passionate about words as described by poet C.D. Wright in her prose poem “In a Word, a World”:

I love them all.

I love that a handful, a mouthful, gets you by, a satchelful can land you a job, a well-chosen clutch of them could get you laid, and that a solitary word can initiate a stampede, and therefore can be formally outlawed — even by a liberal court bent on defending a constitution guaranteeing unimpeded utterance. I love that the Argentine gaucho has over two hundred words for the coloration of horses and the Sami language of Scandinavia has over a thousand words for reindeer based on age, sex, appearance-e.g., a busat has big balls or only one big ball. More than the pristine, I love the filthy ones for their descriptive talent as well as transgressive nature. I love the dirty ones more than the minced, in that I respect extravagant expression more than reserved. I admire reserve, especially when taken to an ascetic nth. I love the particular lexicons of particular occupations. The substrate of those activities. The nomenclatures within nomenclatures. I am of the unaccredited school that believes animals did not exist until Adam assigned them names. My relationship to the word is anything but scientific; it is a matter of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.

Posted on the Poetry Foundation Website with these credits:

C. D. Wright, “In a Word, a World” from The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All. Copyright © 2016 by C. D. Wright. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, Source: The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

C.D. Wright “was a believer in Emily Dickinson’s mandate to “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Though by “slant,” both Dickinson and Wright meant something other than the kind of bias that word summons now,” explains CRAIG MORGAN TEICHER in an essay posted on NPR titled “‘Elegant And Cruel And True’: The Life And Death Of Poet C.D. Wright.”

Both Dickenson and Wright “advocate looking at the world from viewpoints and angles most people don’t choose: Dickinson gets her eyes right into the grass to see her “narrow fellow,” and Wright, too, walks right up to her subjects — such as the men and women in Louisiana prisons whose voices she channels in her masterful One Big Self (a collaboration with the photographer Deborah Luster) as well as civil rights activists in One With Others — and asks them to speak clearly into her poems,” continues Teicher.

Also on the subject of words, C.D. Wright states:

“I believe in a hardheaded art, an unremitting, unrepentant practice of one’s own faith in the word in one’s own obstinate terms. I believe the word was made good from the start; it remains so to this second. I believe words are golden as goodness is golden. Even the humble word brush gives off a scratch of light… I believe the word used wrongly distorts the world. I hold to hard distinctions of right and wrong.”

To get the right word requires revision. Here’s C.D. Wright on the process of revision — and the fear that often drives us:

The words we choose — and how we choose to use them — is the key to building common ground between us. What stories do we tell? How do we tell them? How does who we are shape the stories that we share?  Consider “Borderlands” by Gloria Anzaldua.

Image above credit: Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo. Leslie’s fascinating story is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. Leslie mentors a select group of students around the world through her Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program, and her Weekly Wake-ups provide a thread of inspiration to set the week on the path to awakening.

PS On a completely different topic, tonight at Patagonia’s HQ where Santa Clara deadends at the HWY 33, an epic mountaineering film featuring Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Doors open at 7pm; film starts at 730pm. BYOC and ID — wear your old Patagonia gear and bring shirts to silk screen!

From the official description: “They called themselves Fun Hogs. In 1968, five friends took a road trip to climb Cerro Fitz Roy, and documented the whole thing on a 16mm Bolex. Along the way they surfed undiscovered breaks, skied on sand and snow, spent 31 days in a snow cave and made a first ascent on the mountain. Fifty years later this film, which defined a lifestyle and became an underground classic, is in its first wide release.

Celebrate Mountain of Storms’ 50th anniversary in style: come in your oldest or wackiest Patagonia gear for a chance to win a custom patch by Fort Lonesome . We’ll also have live screen printing (bring your own clothes to screen!) and for a $5 donation to our environmental partner, you get your own special pint cup and pours.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2018 10:42 am

    This is lovely, Gwendolyn. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. October 2, 2018 10:55 am

    Thank you Lauren!

  3. October 2, 2018 7:50 pm


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