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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Next Great Extinction Will Be Words

Words are birds are minibeasts
syllables   animals amphibians
and pollywogs,
utterances   insects and ophidians. 
Snakes whispering together
in the jungle of my mind.

When the trees were juvenile
youthful full of vigour
new species on a daily
basis would appear.
The pool of all created things
got larger by the hour.

Then came the time of mellowness
of seasoning and balancing
of species from the crucible
with others to the dump.
Deaths come with births
my gran would say.

The time of clearances
is here now in this not-so-jungle-
more-a-forest, where
like lemmings, species only disappear.
The pool shrinks constantly.
There's no replenishment.

22 comments:

Rohit said...

lovely comparison Dave,of vividness of words with vividness of forest-life!!

Nicholas V. said...

Ah, alas... So true. One has to listen to the grunts that pretend to be lyrics in some pop songs nowadays...

The Unknowngnome said...

I like the dual nature of this and though your pool is shrinking without replenishment let your utterances, syllables and words continue unabated until the great extinction. Immortal words need no replenishment.

haricot said...

The world appeared when words were born, then the world will die when the words extinct? How long would save for us...?

Mary said...

Interesting, Dave. I could read this poem in two ways: (1)the extinction of words in the world or (2)the extinction of words in an individual as he / she ages, develops dementia. But as for you, Dave, your words will live on and on!

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve just spent the last wee while reading about Pollywogs and Golliwogs and fascinating stuff it was too, how language evolves. I don’t really see a future where language crumbles away. There will always be those who have not received the best of educations who will struggle but we have that now and we had that a hundred years ago and yet, as I’ve written before, William McIlvanney has pointed out more than once that the lower down the social ladder you get, the more metaphorical, the more idiomatic, and quite simply, the more poetic the language gets. I don’t see that changing. I take Mary’s point though that the poem can be read in more than one way and I’m reminded of Beckett’s last poem, ‘What Is the Word?’ where we have him searching, as many old people do, for the right word. One of Carrie’s symptoms is the fact that words often escape her. For a writer there is nothing worse.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

It is a worry that children know so little these days - and that sadly includes the beauty of words and the knowledge thereof of anything bar its simplest form.

Merry Christmas Dave!

Anna :o]

Kass said...

Witty and thought-provoking.

I'm afraid the replenishment words are fo' shizzle bugged out.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Powerful, severe, strong, superbly pitiless and concise.

Windsmoke. said...

Very enjoyable but i doubt words will ever disappear we'll probably return to grunting and gesticulating just like our caveman ancestors did :-).

jabblog said...

I think that's true! In an age of 'text-speak' it is all too easy to adapt the common parlance - but maybe that has always been so. David Crystal's books are interesting:-)

Brian Miller said...

i have to agree with mary i could read it both ways...i would have to say in this new world that in many ways language is advancing and changing and growing...yes things become abbreviated but is that any less to those that speak it?

Ash said...

And that will be one sad day when words die! But thanks to people like you - that day is still far away!

On a brighter note, Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones.

Mama Zen said...

I'm afraid that you might be right!

ds said...

"Deaths come with births" and births with deaths in some ways, yes? So perhaps there is cause for hope. One of the things I love about language is that it does change, is supple, embracing all things. I'm less fond of the need to abbreviate everything (though i'm guilty of it).
Those great old words will never die, so long as there are poets to keep them alive.

Theodore Daniel Richards said...

You got me thinking Dave

Thought provoking

Dave King said...

Rohit
Much thanks for this

Nicholas V
Yeah, that too!

The Unknowngnome
Fantastic morale booster! Much indebted. Eternal thanks.

haricot
Ah... I mere envisage the words extinct in my poor cranium!

Mary
Lovely thought, for which I do thank you with much gratitude. It was the extiction of words in the individual which I had in mind, beginning with the problems of word recall as one ages, but including dementia, certainly.
P.S. Do you think the choice of title might have steered readers away from the "individual" interpretation?


Jim
As always, you make some interesting points. I haven'y fully researched pollywogs and golliwogs. (Note to self: must do that!) I am happy that the poem can be read in two ways, and happy for it to be read in either. I had the individual in mind and was thinking mostly of word recall difficulties affecting the aged, including myself. I agree with the view that the language of those who have been less well educated is often more graphic (as I would have said), but yes, more poetic and more metaphorical, too.
repeating my PS to Mary, do you think the choice of title might have steered readers away from the "individual" interpretation?

HyperCRYPTICal
Indee, I fully agree. And a great season to you and yours!

Kass
Thanks Kass. Encouraging as always.

Tommaso
Wow! I'm happy to settle for that particular string! Thanks for them.

Windsmoke
Sometimes I think I already have!

jabblog
David Crystal has been my idol since way, way back. The High Priest of language development in my view. But am I getting out of touch? Could this be the same David Crystal? Or his son perhaps?

Brian
No, I don't believe that is less. Change is one thing, but to see the pool diminishing is quite another.
I must admit that I hadn't foreseen the poem being interpreted with a universal framework, and am not unhappy if it is, but the implications are different. I do think the size of the word pool is important - that is why Irish or Scottish poets have a head's start on us (or so I believe): they have two pools from which to draw.

Ash
Good to have you visiting, Ash. Thanks for the comment - always much appreciated. And a grand Christmas to you and yours.

Mama Zen
Now I'm really worried!

ds
I do think that all you say here is absolutely true - in the general sense of the poem.

Theodore
Given how thought-provoking your posts are, that's an amazing compliment. Thank you.

rch said...

Hi Dave, really can relate to this one and it made me think of a quote that's along the same vein but looks at it a bit differently:

from Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human:

"Joy in age. The thinker or artist whose better self has fled into his works feels an almost malicious joy when he sees his body and spirit slowly broken into and destroyed by time; it is as if he were in a corner, watching a thief at work on his safe, all the while knowing that it is empty and that all his treasures have been rescued."

I'm glad I've gotten to read your treasures.

Nisa said...

I think this is the saddest poem I've ever read. Very clever. It's a pity that there's truth to it.

Cait O'Connor said...

Sadly you are right Dave, extinction has set in already.

Ygraine said...

It is really disturbing when you think about it, isn't it?
And the saddest thing about it is that the human race is mostly responsible for this catastrophe.
I hope we will learn to care about the rest of creation one day.

Dave King said...

rch
This is a brilliant quote. I didn't know of it, thanks for introducing me. Have a great Christmas.

Nisa
Hi, Good to hear from you. Thank you for vsiting. I agree with your summng up. Have a great Christmas.

Cait
I rather think so. Don't let it spoil your Christmas, though.

Ygraine
Amen to that. Thanks and enjoy your festive Season.