Multilingual Poetry presents contemporary poets whose multilingual heritage plays a central role in their work. Their languages are Chamoru, English, French, Hawaiian Pidgin/Hawaiian Creole English, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, O'odham, Russian, Spanish, Spanglish, and Tagalog. This list, however, does not comprehend all of the languages that are their heritage, nor is 'multilingual' synonymous with 'bilingual.'
The poets of Filipino descent featured here, for example, come from a nation where more than 170 languages are spoken. For Mexican and Chicano/a poets, Spanish and Spanglish have deep and varied indigenous roots. The farther back any language is traced, the more it becomes multilingual all on its own.
On the heels of language comes language politics. Some of the poets featured here remember a time when they, or their parents, were punished for speaking a language other than English at school or in a public place. In resisting this constraint, they have opened a space for the multilingualism of subsequent generations. But the push for monolingualism and monoculturalism is hardly a thing of the past. Where some forces work to shut down, seal off, and contain, multilingual writers work to expand, forge links, and refresh: like language itself.
This exhibit, curated by Wendy Burk, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center from August 16 to September 25, 2010.