Archive for Mnemosyne

Hello world!

First post! More to follow.

Hi, World! I am here stealing from my favorite dj, William B. Williams, who had a late evening show in NYC when I was listening in Poughkeepsie, summers. He had a mellifluous voice, baritone, was urbane, confident, played great stuff, like Frank Sinatra, I was 19, say, was none of the above, lost, lazy, but a dj. At Yale, on our student radio station – WYBC. I was Red Bear, a monicker I had picked up at Andover, I think from Ed Perlberg, perhaps. My show was sometimes called “The Bear’s Den” – it was post midnight, I remember, all jazz, sometimes I would read a poem, mostly by E. E. Cummings, but I also would sometimes buy on the street (Broadway? In front of the Yale Coop), a penny poem, they cost 1 cent a day, written by poets who I had never heard of.

Where were we? Lost, is the answer I always suggest to classes to say, some student, rating me on, said “He can never stick to one thought for more than 45 seconds,” an assessment that I found overly generous, but obviously in the right direction.

So I would lie to say that though our space on the web is called still “The Here East,” I would love to call it instead “Dream Deep,” but I don’t have the web moxie to do it – I barely know how to post anything on this wonderful thing that was a present to me last time I went to Brasil, a present from my great mind-brother, Rainer Brockerhoff, who is my favorite code-switching conversationalist, because he, who was born in Germany, but came to Brasil at age 2 with his fiercely German parents (his father worked at a big German engineering firm which had a branch in Belo Horizonte, this being relevant because young Rainer [the only person I know with this beautiful name except for Rainer Maria Rilke] never spoke any Brasilian (Portuguese) till he was 12. Now he is of course equifluent in both of those languages, and since he is a profoundly Macaholic geek, not only a soft geek, who knows everything about programming, but also a hard geek, who can take off the top of a computer and mess around with dangerous objects like soldering irons, he also reads anything in English, especially scifi and magazines and kokoro stuff (which being the Japanese translation for the Chinese word hsin, either of which means what we can only grope hyphenatingly towards by saying heart-body-spirit-mind) – so he reads strange science, quantum and points East, and mathy-logicky things – all of which being easily enough for you to see that he is glowingly at least trilingual, which three languages are also my best three.

My first foreign language was Latin, which Jay Sklar and I took from our Poughkeepsie Day School English teacher, Miss Seymour, a great teacher of probably 60+ years, who decided that she would offer us a last-year-we-were-to-be-there present of Latin, so we slogged along into it, I remember it was sort of like a puzzle, crossword or something, never gave me the feeling that anyone could or even had spoken it, but fascinating nonetheless . . . And then I took the huge leap out of a small town on the banks of the Hudson, maybe 60,000 souls, to go to Andover, a school I knew nothing about, but one kid from the PDS had gone there a few years before, Gordon Barnes, a boy I had hardly known, why did this choice of his impact on me, why did I decide to move away from my mother and my brother Dunk, to go live in this training school for the Northeast Elite (where Daddy Bush had gone, where W was later to go, an institution where what really counted was money (we had none), connections (ditto), athletic ability (nor that) – though officially what counted was intellect, which I had a dose of)? Anyway, go I did, and I decided for who knows why reason to take both French and German in my first year there (called “junior year”), thus beginning to learn German at age 14, the first language which I was ever to really learn, because Germany was where I went to live for two months in the summer of my junior year at Yale, then getting the bug to go back to Germany to do graduate study, which I did in Bonn for three semesters)

Where were we? Ah yes, German, the learning of at age 14, then tamping down in the summer of 1959, and then really living in for 18 months starting in August 1960, so German I got to be almost permanently easy in, since when I went from Bonn to Berlin in November 1961, two months after the Wall had gone up, I met my first wife, Elke-Edda Gerlach, which made German(y) part of my blood.

And now fast forward to May of 1982, when I went to Brasil as a Fulbright scholar, and met my second wife, Rosália Dutra, and married into a second language, a language I had known not a word of which when I landed, and have never taken a class in, but have learned on the street. It is my third-best language, having displaced French, which was once my second best, but which got bumped off of the top of the mountain by the years in Germany, and then by the advent of Brasilian, which is a Romance language so close to French that it pushes that language into obscurity, or will continue to until I spend enough time living in French that I breathe in it.

All of which to say: my three best languages are, in order of ease: English/German/Brasilian, while Rainer’s are German=Brasilian/English, with Rainer being easier with his first two than me in either, but me easier in English. So we sort of tumble around in Portugermenglish, and neither of us know what language the next punning or made up word will be in.

And it is important to say this. The difference between being easy in two languages and being fairly easy in three is comparable to the difference between movies and plays, between two-dimensional life and three-dimensional life. If you love language, and the huge mind trip that really breathing speaking loving in a different mindscape takes you on, like if you are a poet and like to have the freedom to poem in two languages, having the freedom which the third linguistic dimension offers is really comparable to ingesting an entheogenic chemical. I guess that it is necessary to say: that you have loved in three languages too, hungered for a mate in three languages, written poems to him or her in those three, read and loved poems by the great writers in those three, somehow loving gets to a higher dimensionality too, or something like that.

And having had that love language high for three languages addicts you, you buy a cup of coffee from someone who is from Ethiopia, you ask her how to say thank you and goodbye, you try to remember and don’t, but a new file is opened, you have poked your nose into another space, clumsy bumblebee, you stagger to the next flower, you never come close to the miracle of Ken Hale, it’s not like you are in competition, but you SEE, a life like his becomes not doable, who ever has learned 100, 200 languages?, but visitable.

And so you who are poking your mouse into this strange electrospace which Rainer gave me access to two years ago, getting Kostproben from various categories, wondering what my indelible incomparable journey through words and worlds might have been to make me want to play in these flavors, smells, rhymes, I hope that some whiff of the beauty of the 70 years, 71 soon, which life has so generously inundated me with, and whose fault deep dreaming is, I hope that if you share enough of the strange nudges which have led me to make this playground, that you will stumble upon funny things to send me, whether jokes or quotes or paragraphs or photos or pieces of the life that has been offered you.

in love,

April 9, 2009.