Thursday, January 28, 2010

Splay; Embrasure

I finally got to meet Alexandra of Geology of Being. Wonderful! There is always something that takes you by surprise when you meet someone that you've long admired online in the flesh: in this case it was electric blue eyes. I guess I had expected a watercolorist to be all pale pastels & low saturation. Nope.

Back to reading Harry Potter in Spanish, learning or relearning wonderful words such as “lechuza” (owl) and “alféizar” (window-seat). Except “alféizar” was defined in my pocket dictionary – glossary, really – fascinatingly as “splay; embrasure.” “Splay” as a noun captivated me. I'm not sure I'd ever seen it used as one. I used it at once, in my last post -- wrongly, as it turns out: it's supposed to mean something like “bevel,” but I took it to mean something like “a thing that is spread out” -- and I'm sure there are poems accreting around it in my subconscious, even as we speak. Wiktionary assures me that “alféizar” derives from an Arabic word meaning “tenure.” That goes “plop” and vanishes into my subconscious as well. As often, I have the feeling that poetry simply grows of itself out of language: that poets are not so much like artists as like petri dishes. For me, other languages have always been a method, maybe my main method, of learning to see English fresh. Foreign words land in the dish, and all kinds of exotic things grow, over time, in the agar of English.

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