"Learning the Language of Denshin"

This poem was published earlier this week in Polu Texni. One definite inspiration for the poem was the works of Milorad Pavic. He was a Serbian author, most famous for The Dictionary of the Khazars, which is a fascinating book. After reading it a decade or so ago I went out and looked for any others of his books I could find. I always appreciate playfulness in stories, or at least things that strike me as playfully intriguing, where the play trips you as reader into other ideas or images. One of the ways Pavic plays around with language that I always liked had to do with describing the way a particular person spoke or even the way a particular language or dialect is different from others. So sometimes you distinguish one character from another by how they pronounce their consonants or how they don't pronounce their vowels. And sometimes their accents are compared to things that...make no logical sense yet have an allusive quality that often felt pitch-perfect despite logic.

There are other things at play here--Italo Calvino, even a hint of Lemony Snicket, as well as the story-based approach to language learning that I use to teach--but Pavic's way of describing the way his characters talk is a definite part of this poem.