Welcome to the Austin Poetry Society!
The Austin Poetry Society (APS) encourages the reading, writing, and appreciation of poetry.
The Big Plus in Being a Bilingual Poeta
This month’s Poetic Insight is from APS’s Museletter Editor, Anjela Villarreal Ratliff
Poets have been mixing more than one language in their poems for centuries. Some call the interbraiding of two or more languages in a poem “code-switching”— a term I first heard when taking a workshop from Dr. Carmen Tafolla (a prominent San Antonio bilingual poet, and the 2015 Texas Poet Laureate) at Gemini Ink many years ago. Dr. Tafolla “has been long regarded as one of the masters of poetic code-switching.”
Writing in more than one language expands the writer’s ability to express themselves—especially when the experience they are writing about may have taken place while using that particular language, amid that culture and its people. When I was little, I spoke only Spanish. But, when I entered public school, I was immersed in an English-only environment. Over time, I not only mastered English, but it became my dominant language.
I’ve been writing poetry for over two and a half decades. Most of my poems are written in English. It’s only in the last ten to fifteen years that I have been inserting my first language into my poems. Now I allow Spanish to show up organically when I draft or revise a poem. I trust the poem to guide me to the language it prefers—be it just a sprinkling or for its entirety. It’s freeing to know I can use Spanish to better express certain experiences in those poems.
I’m fortunate to have poet friends who also write bilingual poems. During our poetry critique sessions, we volley between English and Spanish as needed. We poets who were raised amid dual cultures, using two languages, need the freedom to express ourselves dually. Besides, some nuances in the Spanish language are difficult to capture in English. That may be why translation cannot always capture the exact thoughts and ideas that went into the making of a poem in its original language . . . but that’s a totally different topic requiring more indepth analysis.
—Anjela Villarreal Ratliff
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Don’t forget to renew your membership!
All APS memberships expire in May of each year, so now is the perfect time to renew. We’ll be starting up the meetings and monthly contests again this fall, and you don’t want to miss out! To renew your membership or join for the first time, visit our Join the APS page. You can submit your application online or print a copy and mail it in. We hope to see you all again this September!
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APS NEEDS VOLUNTEERS!
If you are a member of the Austin Poetry Society and would like to volunteer, please email us at email@example.com. We are currently looking for a treasurer, as well as people to chair various committees. Let us know if you can help!