Poetry / Emma Gomis
:: Traces ::
As a way of keeping you close I follow, trace your thought it curls as it mounts the stair & shimmers at a clearing T’escric desde lluny, em poso les teves paraules a les butxaques In care to carry your rhythm I drape the film of your shape over my body it creases & folds El teu ritme presocràtic, els teus gests, petits miralls From one object to next I finger contours left behind yearn for you to animate a quick turn in palm of hand Un crit s’enfonsa al pit, com un ocellet que vol ser alliberat I pace the perimeter of your room straining to summon the fade of your print in folds of your garments No sé com més puc dir-te que et trobo a faltar
:: ST. JORDI ::
From the writer
:: Account ::
We were raised in the wake of an oppressive reign, in a country still wounded from years of living under Francoist dictatorship. Swathed in grief from the years which saw the prohibition and persecution of political parties, the repression of the press, and the elimination of leftist organizations, the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and its associated institutions were abolished, our language and culture systematically persecuted.
During Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1935 – 1975) the Catalan language was banned in public spaces and in schools. The authority released statements like: “hable el idioma del imperio”: speak the language of the empire. But banning a language may be an effective way of preserving it, as the speakers feel an impulse to resist the authoritarian reach into their identity. Teachers and revolutionaries held clandestine classes in Catalan; families whispered it in the safety of their homes.
These poems represent a recent urge I have felt to incorporate my language and culture into my writing, maybe because it still is, as all language is, something in need of defending. It is resilient as long as we do our part to make it sing. The Catalan language is more similar to Italian or French. My father’s favorite example is that in Spanish the glass is on top of the table is el vaso esta encima de la mesa, while in Catalan it is el got esta a sobre de la taula. Our accents open and close as they do in French. Recently, the diacritic accent was lost, removed from grammar to facilitate the execution of the language. In a move to defend, we lose a mark. Now the words bear and bone are spelt out the same: os and os.
With the death of Franco in 1975, the 1978 constitution recognized that other languages could be official languages of the state. Despite this, there is still a palpable hostility from the Spanish state to suppress the Catalan language. The first poem, “Traces,” is a pining for my language and how it feels to miss the family and friends that often feel too far away; the second poem, “ST JORDI,” is a feminist reimagining of the legend of the patron saint of Catalunya, and the former Crown of Aragon.
Emma Gomis is a Catalan American essayist, poet, editor, and translator. Her texts have been published in Denver Quarterly, Entropy, Asymptote, Vice Magazine, and Mother Jones, among others, and her chapbook Canxona is forthcoming from b l u s h. She is the cofounder of Manifold Press. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics from Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, where she was also the Anne Waldman Fellowship recipient. She is a PhD candidate in criticism and culture at the University of Cambridge.