Monday, 15 March 2010
A clause in my contract reads 'Visual artists must leave a work behind in the Museum but writers are not required to do so.'
It's liberating to be excused from producing any work during this residency. However, it seems strange that I should be exempted on account of working with language, when Greenlandic has proved such a rich resource to me. (As well as poems suggested by its rich vocabulary, an 'ABD' artist's book is now in the works and a word-a-day short story is being aired on Facebook.)
So I decided that I would break my contract. Following those who believe that we should leave nothing behind but our footsteps, I'm leaving a linguistic trace. I have excised a word from my own language, which I will never be able to use again. I aired it for the last time to an iceberg this morning, and the iceberg shone impassively on, with the glorious contempt for all languages common to its kind.
Fearing the iceberg was not the best custodian, I slipped a small manifestation of my loss between the pages of the old Greenlandic Dictionary in the Museum. I suspect it will remain unread for years. Many Greenlandic words (particularly those associated with Christianity and modern life) are loan words from Danish, and so it is a language that is used to welcoming newcomers.
And what word did I chose? Well, of course, I can't say. It's a small word upon which the future depends. As it's already been done to death by one poet, I don't think I'll suffer by its absence - although I may have to learn to bite my tongue.