Monday, December 03, 2007

italicization as translation

I just began reading Jennifer Moxley's The Middle Room, and while I am thus far struck by many things, the one particularly pertinent to this blog is her use of italics. The italics are many, liberally scattered through the text, and more often than not perch on the edge of awkwardness, giving English words a foreign feel, an emphasis that's a little off in our idiom. While I know comparing prose to soup is problematic (but why, I don't know--I just sense it is so), it's easiest for me to say that the italics "flavor" The Middle Room. They give it the taste of someone and something a little foreign, slightly out of phase with English or American, which is all the more delicious juxtaposed with the book's primary locale of San Diego. I've never been to San Diego, but have had it described to me as more South Californian than South California, by which I envision highways, malls, ranch houses, uber-American-ness, since as goes CA, so goes the nation. Like me, Moxley's revelatory poet is Rimbaud and French writing acts as the door into a different kind of writing, perhaps. I'm continually interested in tracing the currents of innovative poetry back to non-English roots. As I read the book further, I may return to her use of these italics, which seem somehow important to the book, some sort of tiny translations of her own language.

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