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Code-Switching, Code-Stitching: A Macaronic Poetics?

Code-Switching, Code-Stitching: A Macaronic Poetics?

(p.193) Chapter 9 Code-Switching, Code-Stitching: A Macaronic Poetics?
Poetry in a Global Age
Jahan Ramazani
University of Chicago Press

What kind of home has poetry provided for code-switching over the course of the last hundred years? Given that speech and literary writing overlap but are distinct from one another, how should we think about the code-switching that’s particular to poetry? What can we learn from the literary analysis of poetry about code-switching, and from linguistics’ analysis of code-switching about poetry? These are among the broad questions broached in this chapter, which explores an understudied aspect of poetry’s transnationalism, with a focus on mixed anglophone examples. It argues that code-switching in poetry often points in two opposite directions at once: by virtue of breaking with monologic literariness, it heightens poetry’s speech-effect, its seeming orality; and yet by virtue of its pattern-rich code-stitching, it also signals poetry’s literariness, its bending back of reference onto itself, its insistence on the verbal materiality and sonic textures that resonate even across languages. Examples range from modernists like Ezra Pound to so-called ethnic American poets such as Lorna Dee Cervantes and Cathy Park Hong and postcolonial poets such as Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, and Craig Santos Perez, with glances at other contemporary poets who flagrantly mix discrepant discourses, such as Charles Bernstein and Tony Harrison.

Keywords:   code-switching, contemporary poetry, transnationalism, macaronic, monologic, linguistics, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Kamau Brathwaite, Craig Santos Perez, Derek Walcott

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