The Woman made of Flowers (Blodeuwedd)
Blodeuwedd is a Welsh myth that centers around Lleu Llaw Gyffes. He is cursed by his mother never to find a human wife. So the magician Gwydion creates a wife for him made of flowers. The whole tale is very well told by Tamar Williams in this video.
My poem is inspired by that tale. I thank Prof. Angharad Price from Bangor University for creating the Welsh translation. Please click on the pictures to read the poem.
Essay on preserving minority languages
North Frisia is located in the northwest tip of Germany. Its green marshes lie below sea level, protected from the North Sea by hundreds of kilometres of dikes. The permanent shifting and shaping of the coastline creates a permanent struggle between the locals and the ocean. The effort to reclaim land from the sea is more than just work. Here it’s an attitude towards nature and existence that has shaped the characters of the Frisian population for hundreds of years. The same attitude needs to be associated with its local language and cultural heritage today. It’s not enough just to speak a minority language; the aim is to reclaim more and more areas of life with one’s own words and terms.
The Frisian language is on the brink of extinction. The sellout of real estate in particular on the islands Sylt, Amrum and Foehr washes away the locals and thus also the last hideouts of their language and culture. „Reclaim the land!“ is the slogan here too.
The quality of every culture depends on the language in which that culture happens. A language expelled from certain parts of life narrows the identity of the speaker; one’s full self can’t be expressed. (This is a problem for all minority languages.) According to that there is a negative effect on the arts and especially on literature in that language. – In 1930 the Welsh politician and playwright Saunders Lewis put it this way: „If a nation that has lost its political machinery becomes content to express its nationality thenceforward only in the sphere of literature and the arts, then that literature and those arts will very quickly become provincial and unimportant …”
In Frisian language bigger literary forms like novel or tragedy haven’t really been developed. To my mind there is no contemporary world-class literature and drama in Frisian language.
The borders of a language are set where its own expressions don’t cover the events of daily life. Ask yourself a question: In which language do you do your finances, browse the internet or fill up your car on a petrol station? – These are the areas in daily life where the majority language pours in. In High German we know that all too well. English expressions like computer, smartphone or recently vaccine became part of German vocabulary. Even more German words weaken the Frisian language, because cultural progress is made by the German majority. That progress needs then to be carefully translated into the minority language. A continuous effort is necessary to keep a minority language up to date. If you can’t find the right words or terms, because they don’t exist, invent new ones.
Today this is the duty especially for writers and poets, who constantly have enriched the wealth of a language with smart, sometimes humorous, but always skilful contributions. What makes a language relevant is the ability to express oneself and parts of the human condition in a way no other language can.
Literature and poetry have to go to places in a language where no one has gone before. Especially in a minority language it is not enough merely to write but to write further. That is valid for Frisian as well as for any other minority language.