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visual Romani poetry 01

By Stephen Burt

Big in Britain just now, though unknown in America (that should change soon): David Morley’s book The Invisible Kings, which I’m halfway through at the moment and entirely happy about. Big British reviews include Tim Liardet’s in the Guardian, Jane Yeh’s in the TLS (no web version of that review, alas), and Jane Holland’s on her blog.
Morley’s poems explore (pick one, any one) (a) his Romani (Roma or Gypsy) heritage (b) macaronic tactics, interpolating Romani (Gypsy) language into English sentences and lines (c) the afterlife of the Romance (poetic, symbolic adventure) tale in a Romani (Gypsy) context (d) the vividly un-”English” metres partly created, and mostly (alas) abandoned, by the Les Murray of the 1980s, the Murray of “The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle” (Murray blurbs and has supported the book), and (e) the resources of the very short lyric, with some whole poems comprising juxtaposed couplets, and others made up after patterns from handicrafts.
One of those “others” happens to be a patterned (partly visual) poem: you’ll find that one below the fold.


This poem, called “Patrín,” isn’t the best short poem in the collection– and most people who have assimilated the whole thing think the best poem is the long one, “Kings”– but it may be the best intro, since, once you like it, it’s relatively easy to describe the poem to someone else, and because the Romani words are glossed within the poem. If you see a lot of dots at the left-hand margins, that’s not because Morley put them there: it’s because, without them, the poem would not have, on this blog, the paired-circle shape it should have, and gets, on Morley’s page:
Patrín
…………or pateran,
……..pyatrin, or sikaimasko.
……The marker used by Roma
..that tells others of their direction,
often grids of branches or leaf-twists or
..bark-binds. Used for passing on news
…..using prearranged forms, patterns
……..or permutations of these. Yet
……….it also means a leaf, or
………….simply, a page.
………….Simply, a page
……..yet it also means a leaf
……or permutations of these
…using prearranged forms, patterns.
Bark-binds used for passing on news,
..often grids of branches or leaf-twists
……that tell others of their direction.
………The marker used by Roma:
………….pyaytrin, or sikaimasko,
……………..or pateran.
Oh, and: Morley has his own blog, too. I’ll have something to say about this book once I’ve finished thinking about it, I hope– either in this space, or somewhere else. It’s certainly altered my day.

Comment (1)

  • On June 1, 2008 at 9:47 am harish Thakur wrote:

    The poem is nice as it evenly starts and ends with the pataran et. al .However, the difficult references / words should be footnoted as its aglobal sight and romani or European words are not so simple to understand.


Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 by Stephen Burt.