Antoine Cassar calls these poems “mosaics” (adding a clarifying “multilingual sonnets”). I’ve seen plenty of poems that incorporate material from a second language, but I’ve never seen any with material from five woven together in this fashion:
C’est la vie
Run, rabbit, run, run, run, from the womb to the tomb,
de cuatro a dos a tres, del río a la mar,
play the fool, suffer school, żunżana ddur iddur,
engage-toi, perds ta foi, le regole imparar,
kul u sum, aħra u bul, chase the moon, meet your doom,
walk on ice, roll your dice, col destino danzar,
métro, boulot, dodo, titla’ x-xemx, terġa’ tqum,
decir siempre mañana y nunca mañanar,
try to fly, touch the sky, hit the stone, break a bone,
sell your soul for a loan to call those bricks your home,
fall in love, rise above, fall apart, stitch your heart,
che sarà? ça ira! plus rien de nous sera,
minn sodda għal sodda niġru tiġrija kontra l-baħħ,
sakemm tinbela’ ruħna mill-ġuf mudlam ta’ l-art.
Mużajk is an experiment in multilingual verse, an attempt to combine the sounds of different languages into a single rhythm and a single thought.
Written in a blend of English, French, Italian, Maltese and Spanish (in no particular order or proportion), but occasionally also peppered with phrases from other languages, the mużajki or mosaics endeavour to explore the possibilities of braiding together the sounds and cadences, literary memories and motifs of different tongues. The successful interaction of the various elements will depend on how well the seemingly multiple voices are gelled into one by the rhythm and logic of the poem….
When Dave Bonta sent me the link, he said he wanted “to share the page with the only two people I know who might be able to understand almost all the lines as written (except, I suppose, for the Maltese),” and my ability to read all the languages (except, of course, for the Maltese) was certainly a factor in my enjoyment—I don’t know if a monolingual reader would enjoy them at all. At any rate, it’s a fascinating experiment; thanks, Dave!
Below is Cassar’s English translation of the poem I quoted (he helpfully supplies them for all his poems):
Run, rabbit, run, run, run, from the womb to the tomb, from four to two to three, from the river to the sea, play the fool, suffer school, the wasp goes round and round*, get involved, lose your faith, learn the rules,
eat and fast, shit and piss, chase the moon, meet your doom, walk on ice, roll your dice, with destiny dance, metro, work, sleep, the sun rises, you get up again, to say always tomorrow and never tomorrow reach,
try to fly, touch the sky, hit the stone, break a bone, sell your soul for a loan to call those bricks your home, fall in love, rise above, fall apart, stitch your heart,
what will be? it will go well, nothing more of us will be, from bed to bed we run a race against the void, until our soul is swallowed by the dark womb of the land.
* the name of a Maltese children’s game