man, i just spent quite a bit of time trying to answer the Ilan Stavans question in little bits. craziness.
to cut to the quick of it: english is the equal sign i use to balance economics, psychology, learning & reacting and the like with my internal self. as such, i dont let english have a whole lot of romance. even when dealing with poetry, i prefer to be a straight shooter and let the directness be a conduit for any “wonder” that may be in my work veruss letting it be the “wonder” itself.
spanish, on the other hand, is a whole different beast. it is a more forgiving instrument and lets me use it in all kinds of way most of which are wrong. i have some experience with proper conversational castillan but any one with a 6th grade plus knowledge of español can expose me for a fraud in a second. so spanish has always been more fun for me and mosty of my spanglish was initially my putting english in the spots that i couldnt find the spanish word. on the flip side, when i employ spanish in my daily speak its because i have weighed all the english words for what i want to say and think that they pretty much suck. tu sabes? ;-)
to go back to the james quote- i could give a fkcu if english betrays me since it is mmore of my mother tongue in that its the one that i “learned” with spanish being a more mistress tongue with its the one that i can be most vulnerable in. i will be the first one to stop a convo and say ‘ok, what does that word mean?’ but when it comes to spanish i have a lot more fun and say ‘ok, lets guess what this means. lets try to use it as soon as i can.’
to me, this lets spanish be my most intimate form of expression. i think too much when i use english. when i say something in spanish, its much more instinctual. plus it sounds sweeter, yeah- i said it.
one of the things that this question really highlighted for me was the fact that spanish is in actuality my mother tongue and english was more the stepmother. not a cruel evil one but also not first choice and that shit can sting in the most unexpected ways at the worst times. it would be great to end this by saying that i dream in spanish thanks to all its romantic history but thats not true; i dream like i live, in english. likewise the language of fury is still english, i’ve gotten pissed in spanish a few times but the bottom line still states that i am much better at being a prick in english than i am in spanish.
and i still have a lot to learn from spanish especially when it comes to poetry because by going back to this birth language that i lack nuance in and only have a basic understanding, i have been able to make some poetic statements razor sharp where both the words and their arc are both magical.
(for another take on this question: visit barbara jane’s blog)