Words Demand Understanding

October 16, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Orlando White
CW reading, Friday, October 8th @ 7:30pm
A blog by Emily Roossien, parent of a student at Idyllwild Arts Academy

Not only poets, would-be poets, and creative writers would have enjoyed sitting in on the Creative Writing Reading Series on Friday, October 8th with Dine Poet Orlando White.  Anyone who finds language fascinating in all its manifestations, how it works and doesn’t work, how it confuses and messes with your mind, how its lyrical sounds can soothe, would have enjoyed Mr. White’s explanations and descriptions of his use of language and poetry, in both the Dine and English languages.  I certainly did.

Aided and abetted by his Dine, Navajo heritage, he uniquely expressed his personal need to capture his impressions of the world in brush strokes of words and to share ideas of writing, of poetry with his people.  I found it interesting that his eventual interest in poetry started with a fascination of the black images of letters on the white page, how he saw the early development of letters in their pictogram state, how they would communicate to him and find their way into his poetry.

I learned that because the verb is focal to the Dine language, one cannot say, “There is a man outside.”  Translated into the Dine language, this would have to be something like, “A man dances outside.” The verb brings the language alive.  Inanimate objects become animate.  They live – as in his “i” and “j” poems, which he says came to him in a workshop during a time he was trying to understand relationships.

Another appealing concept that impressed its image upon me is the distinctive way various cultures introduce themselves.  Mr. White illuminated the difference of an introduction of self in the Dine language as opposed to the English.  When someone says, in English, “I am so and so,” the Dine language struggles to translate this concept that is very foreign.   It was my understanding from a strictly English speaking point-of-view,  that everything around that person – the walls, the various objects in the room, the people, the air circulating, everything – acknowledges the person, as part of the greater whole, that is who he/she is.  My mind could only grasp this by thinking of the Sanskrit greeting, Namaste:  “The divine in me recognizes and acknowledges the divine in you.”  It, the great All That Is, recognizes the equality of all, and pays honor to the sacredness of all.

And words demand understanding.


Entry filed under: Creative Writing, special events. Tags: , , , .

Zine. from Erich Bollmann, Artist-in-Residence Answers to Parents’ Frequently Asked Questions

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October 2010


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