By David Holper
Imagine it is 476 AD, and the Roman Empire
is crashing down around you, Vandals and Visigoths
flooding the streets, dimming the light of civilization
for the next thousand years. Yes, much like
we all feel now as civilization self-destructs, preparing
to lower the curtains on us forever.
Hüzün (Turkish, noun): the gloomy feeling that things are in decline and that the situation – often political in nature – will probably get gradually worse. Despite the darkness, there’s a joy in having the word to hand, sparing us from a personal sense of persecution and reminding us that our misfortunes are largely collective in nature.
David Holper is a Professor of English at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. He has an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His first book, 64 Questions, was published by March Street Press, and he is self-publishing his second book The Bridge. The above poem is from his recently completed book of poems Language Lessons: A Linguistic Hegira. The collection consists of 109 poems, each poem with an untranslateable word from a foreign language (or in a few cases, rare words in English), its definition, and an interpretation on that word in a poem. In addition, the 109 poems represent the beads on the japa mala, the prayer beads that Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs use in their spiritual walk, and in this same sense, the book is a spiritual exploration of language through the poems. He has about 80 poems in various journals, including publications in Pilgrimage, First Things, Poetry in the Cathedral, Ruminate, Rock and Sling, Conversations Across Borders, Toyon, The Kerf, and Perigee-Art.com. I have also published about a dozen pieces of fiction in various quarterlies, including Grand Street, the New Virginia Review, and Callaloo.