Monday, 13 June 2016

?Every 7th post will be in English - this will be more like a newspaper than a post - Tues 17/5/2016? - ?or perhaps every weekend

Dear Clarissa, since you like my English posts, I might do some :) I'm so glad I met you for real last weekend.

So, here goes: one of my favourite male singers, how does he walk down the street with that voice? So soft and this song, given to my Festival of Love Poetry on the Arabic Study Group on Facebook.

This makes me smile so much, it's absolutely what was going on in my head when I wrote it :)

I'm thrilled with this photo of me, well laugh at me all you like, of course everyone wants to look at the demo pics and see if they look hideous or surprisingly wonderful and happy. Or am I the only vain person in the world?

For the first time in my life I am truly voluntarily wearing a ring. I am surprised at myself. One Friday I suddenly felt I wanted a small ring, looked in the box at work and found one I loved immediately. Of course it disappeared within a short time, it had an unfortunate accident... Then my finger felt instantly sad and heartbroken, again something I have never experienced before. So back at work I looked in the ring box again and found another one I must have ignored completely the previous time. Such a metaphor for The Search for whatever it is you deeply want or need. This one is:

with a sparkly bit in it too
even the band is so beautiful, a continuous strand of rounded silver metal

What else:

My passion for Arabic is just beginning to return. I can tell by how emotional I am by simply thinking about it. A few weeks ago I chatted briefly to a customer at work, but then said something like I can't talk about it, I just cry and rushed off to the back room. Hopeless case. Even walking into the beginning of the Islamic room at the Ashmolean did this to me, just standing there about to cry everywhere. Then my mind went all blank and all emotions went away. All these emotional storms pass over, even blank storms, I would never have expected that.

Study session on a complete poem by Amichai. I turned the page the correct way up after a few moments :) It's lovely to be sufficiently a beginner to do that in public. And for it not to matter in the slightest, because we were all keen, passionate, willing to be swept along, spoken to, confused, appreciative, sharing interpretations, looking at the grammar, looking at the use of the hyphen, simply being in the same room as someone who read the whole poem to us, twice :)

I was unnerved by the complete absence of Arabic, Arabs, that whole culture in the poem. It was a very loud absence. As soon as I realised this I felt oddly silenced in the room, because I could not have mentioned this without causing all sorts of difficulties. Maybe not, but *I* did not have any capability to put this into words and it didn't seem relevant anyway. Though of course it is profoundly relevant. Everything is relevant to reading a poem. A poem leads us all back into ourselves and right into each other. Instantly. Just like that, boom. Detail by detail. Disclosure by disclosure.

More Amichai in another session on the first issue of Modern Poetry in Translation from 50 years ago. 1966. So I was 2 :) All these wonderful people writing and working, giving themselves to the future. We made our own tags for our choices of poem. I chose 3 which jumped out at me. Different styles of tag emerged from my time with each of them.

I want to describe the feeling of doing that. I sat next to another woman on some steps in the sunshine in a quad. It was a bit cold, but very sunny. There wasn't much time, but I knew I had to flick through and find my choice without actually reading any of the poems. It's like moving forwards with no resistance, not lost, but not found either. Almost no longer breathing, a brain cell high, heavenly unknowing, loose, unattached.

I need my own time late at night so I am leaving Facebook at 10, 10.30 or 11pm. Most unlike me. It means I am not available for late night chats which are of course the best. In time that will happen, but not now. Same for pillow talk from 6am onwards. I so look forward to that. Be patient.

What else? My Arabic Study Group on Facebook is 'closed' now, for personal reasons. It had been 'public'. I need that privacy. Which of course is entirely negated by this blog... no logic round here.

What is it like giving myself permission to talk/write in English? I know only fluent English speakers can read this flood of stretched words. No google translate will cope properly. This level is my English level. My Arabic level is totally different, simplified, reduced, focused, tiny images, one event, make the words stay on that one topic, use 'wa' , 'fa' and 'innahu' all the time, run on to a close thought, or rather fact. All I can do are facts in Arabic, things which encapsulate all that is happening, somehow express something which matters, which can console me for not having any voice beyond the few nouns and verbs I know.

How awful has it been having no English and not even being able to write about it? Dreadful, pointless, so so lonely, not knowing anyone else who is struggling with this hopeful, but hopeless task or mission, using my actual life as my tool for learning. All I could do is write incoherent draft posts in English. Also writing my diary in endless lines of poetry in English.

Worse, if that's possible, is realising that by asking someone else to correct my stuff I'd then be read by that actual person, so the need to write by then was greater, but the willingness was even smaller. Total confusion and shyness. I hit on a plan to write a more neutral series based on my father, but events overtook me, I had to write from my deepest self, even if it did get sent off to be read and corrected. If that's what I wanted, I certainly got it. I have only pulled one post, ironically the only one with no errors.

Has writing in Arabic helped me? Well, I launch into French and Hebrew when I feel like it. I don't send those for correction. I think it's too early to tell. I know I can find simple words to write about absolutely anything now, all I have to do is go deeper and find the simplest and truest facts and then I have the words I need for that. I have to listen to my heart, ask myself what matters the absolute most to me, what I have to write, then I write those few phrases, then post them. I collect several then send them for correction later. The very most personal one I sent for correction before posting and then I only posted the correct and smoothed out version, not my original with mistakes. I was prepared to wait for that.

The searching and listening to my heart is what Arabic has given me. A restriction which has given me my inner self.

See, I love constraints, a poetry concept. Freely chosen, temporary, various.

One last thing, I need to say such a big thank you to my many teachers:

There was a photo of a meadow here, but the link has been cut.


  1. There is another complication - sometimes I post something in Arabic and don't send it for correction. I don't know why. I don't want any interference with what I have written, I want it to stand, untouched. It is what it is. I don't want any other process to mess around with it. Or I don't want sympathy or emotion. If I throw a stone into a pond I don't want the pond to start talking to me. Also, I don't want to cause any distress or get into an intense conversation I am not prepared for.

  2. I'd forgotten that I used to get emotional thinking or speaking about learning Arabic. I certainly don't feel that now. So where has all that emotion gone to? I have no idea.

    I have started to use my dictionary again. Shockingly, I am having to relearn alphabetical order to do that. It's there, just a little hazy. I'm using it to work out the meaning of Tweets about Aleppo. Back to where I started, one of my reasons for learning in the first place.

    I have been using my Arabic to message, so that's an entirely different process and is very quick and real. I use my small array of phrases to say important things and can shift to English if I am out of my depth. Or stay in Arabic if the situation requires very simple Arabic.

    People read Arabic hyper fast, so that's the best way of getting through. English must just look like bits of spaghetti, as Arabic does to me :)

  3. I'm not writing any blog posts at all now. I don't know why. I'm not feeling it right now.

    The studying is by myself with my text book. I date each page as I finish it.

    The messaging is sometimes in Arabic and English, just short phrases with the translation under it. I mean that I write a statement first in one language then send my own translation. It simplifies my English.

    I might read a paragraph of the Amnesty 'Human Slaughterhouse' report in both languages. That's one reason I am learning, so I can read the statements of those who bear witness.

    To be fair, it would be best to just concentrate on my text book. That's working for me, so enjoy that while it lasts. Don't complicate things.


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