This is one of those mornings where my tea is already cold as I open the computer program. My routine crumbled even before I got out of bed. And as I type this Norwegian words keep intruding in my inner monolog, which is rare. I don’t want to use the world crumble. “Smuldre” comes to mind instead. I think this means I am primed to write poetry today. Onomatopoeia taking precedence over everything this morning. My personal, physical relationship with words.
Crumbles. “Like a cookie”. Dry, granular.
Smuldre opp. It is a perfect translation for crumble, but the sm sound feels softer. It’s still dry but not granular – more like old paper. Dust.
I suppose being an outsider means having a peculiar relationship to a new language as a boxful of tiny objects to make sense of and piece together. A second language rarely arrives in context.
I over-analyze the shape and sound and discrete parts of each word. I experience imaginative literal (and visceral) origins of phrases. Å gå i oppløsning: To become loosened into non-being. It’s not the same thing as dissolve. It feels different on an emotional level. And for me, all emotions begin as physical sensations.
The thing is I can’t write in Norwegian because how I feel the language and how it is read and understood by native speakers are two different things. Norwegians will argue with me (and be right, of course) that both cookies and wet paper smuldrer.
When I write, I often wind up searching for a way to translate my understanding of a Norwegian phrase back into English. Norwegian has become a kind of poetry tool for me to play with. A shift in perspective that is almost magical. Probably because it comes from a place of ignorance.
I think of Picasso when he talked about the art of trying to paint like a child. This, years after he’d learned classical painting techniques. He wanted to de-familiarize himself with painting.
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
– Pablo Picasso
I have a lot of personal issues with Picasso as a role model of any sort, but I do think that there is a value in going back to pick up dropped stitches – things we let go of along the way that can provide us a kind of structural integrity for our creative perspectives/pursuits/contributions.
I think that this is just another way of talking about “The Beginner’s Mind”.
The creativity coach Jen Louden talks about beginning again – always beginning again. But I am now putting that together with a deeper understanding. This doesn’t mean picking up where you left off and continue. It means pulling back, shaking it off, and beginning again from a point of ignorance—with the integrity of experience, but not using experience as a pathfinder.
Begin. The word doesn’t begin with a breathy vowel, rising passively on the continuation of an exhalation. It is plosive. Explosive. It’s the new calf being let out of the barn in spring.
It also ends in n, the tongue vibrating on top of the mouth.
It’s a nice feeling.