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Modern Poetry in Translation (Series 3 No.16) The Dialect of the Tribe

Modern Poetry in Translation (Series 3 No.16) The Dialect of the Tribe

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The latest issue of Modern Poetry in Translation takes as its theme the so-called ‘minority’ languages and cultures of our modern, globalised world. It explores a wide variety of viewpoints – translated poems, brief essays, anecdotes, photographs – and a wide range of issues: causes for lament, anger and revolt, but also for celebration, worldwide and perennial.

At the heart of the matter lies the struggle for what John Clare called ‘self-identity’, a chief factor in which is language, one’s own peculiar tongue and the dialect of the tribe.

On a calm day the gaps, the audible
ellipses, become la-la-la-la-la—
the way that most tongues sing along
when we don’t have the words.
I know this in my scant Estonian: that laul,
is song. John, stay in those days,
not the flurries of hard consonants, the ka-,
the ga-. that come with finger-stabbing
and a hunted look. Lully, lulla... I wish you
the Coventry Carol, comfort on the edge
of any language, its lully, lulla, lullay


Philip Gross