Babel Breath: Multilingual Poetry

Babel Breath: Multilingual Poetry

Transread the poetry of the possible through lingual plurality.

Join Rhys Trimble in exploring work that celebrates the multilingual, through translanguaging, homophonic [self] translation, and other techniques, in a search for your own poetic Babel.  

With a working knowledge of several languages (or even without), it is possible to produce poetic texts that transcend one particular linguistic ‘lens’. Poetry enables us to move between the ideas of different languages and in doing so, to learn more about how language itself works. In multilingual writing, each language’s linguistic and literary conventions may be melted together, agglomerated, or used to create completely new environments, where innovative images spring forth. 

Cut-up is one way of constructing such a Macaronic text by mechanical means; as per William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin in The Third Mind – ‘the reading of it is not linear but inscribed in the space of its multiplicity: nothing remains but an immense web of reading and writing, folding, unfolding, and refolding indefinitely’. Multilingualism lends itself to this experience and rather than listening to one linguistic point of view within a single cultural ‘box’, we can try to simultaneously listen to all – like walking down the carriage of the tube/metro and listening to all the voices around us. 

More dense layering can be brought-in through code-switching, which occurs when an individual poet is highly fluent in two or more languages. A kind of separate or holy language (i.e. speaking in tongues) is also possible, which takes us towards Sound Poetry and Asemic writing. Everything in-between will also be discussed on this course, including blending disparate registers to produce this multilingual effect, or adding one word like a glittering jewel in a Xenolanguage to hang the whole poem from. 

This course will present an exciting exploration of different approaches to Multilingual poetry; you do not need to be fluent in more than 1 language to make the most of this course: you need only an interest in multilingual writing and a desire to explore the possibilities of what poetry can be. We’ll read inspirational poems and write back to these, using techniques of creative translation and experimental writing to seek our own poetic Babels. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected]. Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: Rhys Trimble

About Rhys Trimble View Profile

Rhys Trimble is a bilingual poet, performer, performance artist, text artist, visual artist, musician, editor, critic, and shaman. Interested in avant-garde poetry, art, and music, and its parallels in Welsh/ancient artforms, alongside poetry and visual image as ritual and processual cut-up techniques. He is the author of twelve or more books of poetry and Vispo, and vocalist in the noise-punk band Lolfa Binc. 

"I find the feedback from the other students to be invaluable. And sharing my poetry with others has helped build my confidence."

– Summer 2023 survey response

Related Courses