Monday, September 20, 2010



Name a famously ‘tony’ poet who you’re sure never wrote in dialect. Nope, Alfred Lord Tennyson did once (in his “Northern Farmer” written in broad-Yorks. dialect.) But dialect can sometimes be very fashionable, cf. American regional – Yahnky (James Russell Lowell, Robert Frost) , Suthrun (Faulkner), Westurrn (Cormac McCarthy) , or city-specific – Boston (Bahs'tin) , Brooklyn (Brukl'n), Bronx (Bronucks), etc., or be very un-fashionable: e.g., Southerners Thomas & later Tom Wolfe [no relation] never use it.

Tennyson's single Yorkshire-dialect poem "Northern Farmer" is a telling example in itself. Most poets choose to write dialect/mainstream, unless to them, poetry's always/only written in dialect (cf. Aberdeen's regional poets.) Few aspiring poets seem to want 2B forever sidelined as just regional dialecticists, while some (it appears) can't help writing otherwise. It may depend on whether one feels safe/legit. in retaining one's regional dialect even as/once a formally-schooled & published writer. If so, equally perfectly valid poetry can easily be written in both speeches, but can it be widely published anywhere in deep dialect? It won't be very widely read, unless it's somewhere on the internet, fully accessible from anywhere on the planet.

I’m now realizing that my own vestigial 'greater'-Boston dialect is occasionally noticed by people here in Norcal, but what counts here (as I write this), is whether you can somehow read it when I write this, even when I’m not deliberately using it; Rule: 'greater'-Bostonians (micro-regionally, & northern New Englanders, generally) noticeably apocopate: they eliminate words or letters (infamously the letter r), w/out even knowing (it or) why (they do it.) Have I just proven it – or have I overdone it? You tell me, according to your own internal parser-meter.

[flashback:] When I was an undergraduate at Jesuit-run Boston College, (1959-63) I recall a Lyons-cafeteria conversation with Boston novelist George V.Higgins in which he denounced dialect-writing; ironically, later, after a Stanford MFA in Creative Writing, he came back East to Prov RI to become a court reporter for the PROVIDENCE Journal (at the courts in Worcester MA), while on the side, finally (after a few false starts, one of which was a novel I was in byname as a grad-student at Boston College) got around to writing THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, THE DIGGER’S GAME, COGAN’S TRADE and other Boston-dialect novels that made him famous (COYLE became a film starring Robert Mitchum, who depricated George’s behavior on the set.) West Coast academia and Hollywood apparently didn’t suit George, but East Coast (Boston) crime did, so he wrote it as it’s spoke. (He died on Nov., 6, 1999 of a heart-attack.)

I write as best (as) I can (write), but I also talk as I do (talk), & sometimes they’re (a spurious apocopation) indistinguishable. If so, (what) does it matter (to you)? If you can read it, you can read it; I’m not going to put anything over on you.

[flashback] Standing in (Dr.) Tom Hubbard (PhD)’s kitchen in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, his local-hotelier father suddenly turned to me & said “D’ye ken the braid Scots?” I instantly answered, “I ought to, after all, my dad was a Glaswegian!” He never bothered not to speak braid-(broad) Scots when I was in the room thereafter. Later, Tom showed me a letter from a woman in Aberdeen written in the curious (even to Scots!) Aberdonian-dialect, insisting “This is not an act. She really writes & speaks like this” to which I replied: “I believe you.” (He’d already edited an anthology of northeastern-Scottish poetry published by Aberdeen University, where he’d gotten his doctorate.)

Have I made my [obvious] point (yet)? Applying some mental-grease can lubricate most fractured-looking demi-dialects. Or would you like to read obviously fabricated sentences (like the preceding) endlessly? a'Courst not! (as we say in MA Bay-coastal Lynn MA, where I grew up.)

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