The Vulgar Tongue
San Francisco: a+bend press, 2000
The first lines of Norma Coles book begin, "at some point,
or at gunpoint/ human is to wander." And so Im wondering if
Dante wrote his De Vulgari Eloquentia in exile what corresponding exile
might inhabit the space of Norma Coles The Vulgar Tongue?
borrowed nature, neighborhood
dated by experience
"Ill kill that bitch"
She escapes into the margins
might be an appropriate response to this question. For maybe there isnt
a corresponding exile but a thread of displacement from language in this
work, a kind of alienation where the vernacular struggles to know itself.
"What is depicted is zero/ between the figures and an elsewhere".
How does it form, how do we make it, support it? I dont mean this
in an etymological kind of way but a mysterious way that we, the regular
masses make and build language. "Plan one: as if were all the
whole supporting// cast. Plan two: you let your thought drift through
There is a dependence on the mini-narratives throughout the piece to flush
out the spoken. And I feel like I could name them: the one about the stolen
purse; the guy with the naked children; the death dance. But when I go
back they are fragmentary, all seeming to be in service of the speech
or words which compile them. The "I actually" said Miranda
and "my treat" to Rosa seem like nods to Dantes
criticism of Italian dialects but without the rancorous judgement. Still,
there is an echo of, "If you have said this
" in the pages.
This text also incorporates phrases like: "Xtreme reading" and
"superior user experience," with the same respect accorded to
older language, not using it as a sign of alienation but a sign of movement.
Much like the cover photo of the graffiti tagged semi. Language is always
moving, coded, art for everyone.
Sarah Anne Cox