From the Guardian, Philip Gross’s top 10 writings from the edge of language (2010) is a mixture of things I already know and love (“The Waste Land”), things I know about and have been meaning to investigate (Riddley Walker), and things I’d never heard of but suddenly want to read:
5. Keeping Mum / Llofrudd Iaith by Gwyneth Lewis
These are two books, or the same book written separately in Welsh and in English, by a major bilingual poet whose collections can be multi-layered as a novel. The Welsh title means The Language Murderer; set partly in a psychiatric hospital, it is also a detective story, investigating deep harms done by loss of language, celebrating survival in the end.
6. A Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty by Frank Kuppner
Not so much a translation as a witty teasing of the mannerisms of translation… This wry philosophical Glaswegian-Polish poet gives us an imaginary ancient Chinese text whose square bracketed lacunae [something something something] come alive with hints and echoes.
And Gross’s introduction to the list is well worth reading in its own right:
“I’ve just got back from Friesland / Fryslân in the north of Holland, hearing a language spoken that is so close to English that it’s like looking at a face through a rain-drenched window. One good wipe, you feel, and you’d know them. Now I’m about to drive from south to north Wales, where two languages lie alongside each other, oil and water, mixed rather than merged. I don’t speak Welsh or West Frisian – no other language, in fact, well enough to dream or write a poem in it – but that ragged edge of language is familiar to me.
“I grew up with it: on the one hand, English, on the other, my father’s language – he was a wartime refugee from Estonia – which he never spoke. [...]
Via the indispensable wood s lot (whose proprietor, Mark Woods, takes wonderful photographs that adorn many of his posts).