It’s not so much the time that has passed. It’s more what did in fact happened that makes Kerouac‘s prose come alive again similarly to how it did in my twenties. I am very keen on language much more-so now than before. Language is a symbolic representation of life, and is the currency of our daily affairs. Listen to Ti Jean (as he was called by his family) read the last page from On The road. The prose has a musicality to it; like life it has a rhythm and beat. The story is an experience, and not an experience it is an exchange and yet something which cant be exchanged.
Kerouac wanted “to be considered as a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jazz session on Sunday.” To me his prose was always alive and moved often times with the same pace as life, something slow sometimes fast sometimes still but all part of this giant euphonious symphony. I read recently that some of his poetry was written in French and that his iconoclastic book On the Road started out as a book called Sur Le Chemin written in dialectal Quebec French. What really touched me what that, near the end of his life, Kerouac expressed to Ginsberg the need to speak in the language of his parents again. (His parents were French-Canadians that move to Massachusetts.) The other day my lady (the lovely MrsMaryMuthaFuckingPoppins) asked me what language would we speak to our child in. Between us my lady and I speak 4 languages and each of those languages carry with them a unique portion of our fragmented self-identity. I explained to my lady that Haitian Kreyol is the language of my soul. Whenever I hear it I feel home in a way I never do with any other language. French is the language of my heart – when I drink to excess and see a pretty lady that’s the language that the non-sense I say comes out in when I can no longer suppress it. When I feel moved by something deeply only French can capture the subtlety. English is the language of my mind, it is what I use at work. It’s what I use to pay bills, order a pizza, participate grudgingly in the phone conferences at work. English is ultimately the lingua franca of my day-to-day existence which more often then not, I hold in contempt.
Language as a Way of Seeing
Language encapsulates a culture’s way of thinking and looking at the world. There are idioms and forms of expression in Kreyol that inform my vision of the world that are so incredibly rich they cannot be carried over into English without permeating whatever I am trying to say with a tragic sense of loss. All my life I had to pay very close attention to language words and names being first generation in a new nation.
The first names I paid much attention to were my own. My name in itself was a history lesson. My first name David is Hebrew in origin and my last name is very French. I have no conception of family past my paternal grandfather and my maternal great grandmother. I have no concept of Haiti or when my ancestors where brought to the Island or where they were brought from. I know the person/slave owner from who I get my last name came from either Bretagne or Normandy. I am guessing that he also had a taste for the dark meat and rape, but I could be wrong.
While I am fluent in English I don’t understand it. There is not much in the history of the English language can relate to or ground myself in. This is why I write my prose and poems in English. I have much more room to experiment and can take much more liberties with English than with the other languages I know.
So in many ways for me deciding what language to speak with my future loin-spawn is really deciding on what vision of the world I should acquaint him/her with
My vision of the World
I don’t share much about myself or what I deeply feel about stuff. Of course from my posts on this site I have mixed a a lot of personal info with little bits of fiction and effectively blurred the boundaries of MrMary the character and Dave the person. Raising a child however is very different. Children to me seem like wet clay and time the heat of the furnace that set them in their ways. I wonder when I am long gone and forgotten what language will my child want to speak again ?