Sunday, November 04, 2007

Jimmy Abad's Talk at Ortigas Part I and II

October 18, Ortigas Foundation Library

Let us first have a clear idea about the literary work. The literary work – story or poem or play – is work of language and work of imagination, both.

1. So, let us first consider the matter of language.

It is significant that poetry is associated with verse, which comes from Latin versus, which refers to "furrows," those cuts in the earth made by the plow. Thus, as the farmer works the soil to produce a crop, so the poet works his language to produce his poems.

In fact, language is already translation of reality. The word "translation" comes from Latin transferre, translatus, meaning "to carry or ferry across." Thus, when we write we ferry across our words our perceptions of reality. So it is that language makes real to our human consciousness or mind our perceptions of reality. In that profound sense, language creates our reality. That is the essential power of language.

I have in mind this idea of language as essentially translation when I say that at first, our writers wrote in English, but later, they wrought from English. In fact, all literary artists work or forge from a given natural language their stories and poems.

II. Now let us consider the literary work as work of imagination.

Creative writing is imaginative writing. That activity used to be called by the Greek word, mimesis, from which comes the English "mime, mimicry," the act of feigning or imitating. Mimesis then is the creative process of imagining whereby a form comes to be imposed upon the artist's material.

That material, as regards the literary arts, is language and human experience. The etymology of the English word "experience" is very illuminating if we bear in mind that what distinguishes the literary work from other forms of writing is the representation or simulation of a human experience as imagined as lived.

The Greek word for "experience" is empeiria, from the verb, enpeiran, "to try or attempt," and also, peran, "to go or pass through, or undergo." Thus we have the English word "empirical." But the Greek vocabulary passes to Latin experiri, "to try or attempt," from which come the English words "experience" and "experiment"; moreover, the Latin experiri relates to Latin periculum, which means both "attempt" and "danger." Such the meaningfulness of the single word "experience." It is associated with faring, going on a journey, with peril and fear: one goes forth, tries and is tried, meets with chance and danger, and nothing is certain.

I said earlier that what distinguishes the literary work from other verbal works is its mime or simulation of a human experience as imagined as lived. It is that human experience by which we are moved as we read. That is the essential power of a literary work, be it story or poem: it gives us the very sensation of living, it gives us a vivid sense of our humanity.

For what is most real is what is most imagined.

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