Powell’s question # 51 February 2009 at 4:54 AM | Posted in News | 6 Comments
Here is my unsolicited answer to the fifth question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:
“How important is it to publish in English today? What advice do you have for a poet who is writing bilingually, or who is considering writing bilingually?”
It is very important to publish in English today, because English has become, like it or not, the world’s lingua franca. The 21st century is sometimes touted to be the century of China (with the US rapidly losing its economic edge and China still adding to the number of its inhabitants and to the number of Chinese living and becoming very influential outside China). Chinese (probably Mandarin, among all the Chinese languages) may yet become the world’s lingua franca, replacing English. (As students of language know, linguistic power grows out of economic power.) At some point in this century, we will all have to publish in Mandarin Chinese. But right now, most likely until we all die, English is the language of choice not just of merchants like publishers and, because we all have to earn a living dealing with merchant-publishers, of writers.
Fortunately, there is this thing called english (with the small letter E) or International English, which we all speak and could write in. My advice to poets writing in their own mother tongue and also in English is not to think that the English (the British) or the Americans own English, but that English is as much our language as it is theirs.