By tim Kalinowski
I have always had a love affair with beautiful language. In this, I do benefit from a touch of synesthesia. I can sometimes taste the flavour of words and see the colours of sentences. Some may be entranced by the stilted cadence of classical poetry. But for me, I love to let words pour over my mind like a fine liqueur.
“It was a thick night, starless, but the darkness was becoming impregnated with a fresh and clear air,” writes Gabriel Garcia Marquez in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’ “Exhausted by the long crossing, they hung up their hammocks and slept deeply for the first time in two weeks. When they woke up, with the sun already high in the sky, they were speechless with fascination. Before them, surrounded by ferns and palm trees, white and powdery in the silent morning light, was an enormous Spanish galleon. Tilted slightly to the starboard, it had hanging from its intact masts the dirty rags of its sails in the midst of its rigging, which was adorned with orchids. The hull, covered with an armor of petrified barnacles and soft moss, was firmly fastened into a surface of stones. The whole structure seemed to occupy its own space, one of solitude and oblivion…”
Marquez is a master of texture, and I always get goosebumps reading his words. With poetry, however, I prefer fluidity of language and powerful imagery. In these regards Dylan Thomas was the master. Take his last stanza of “Fern Hill:”
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Sometimes an author has the ability to create an harmonic resonance which lights up the entire skull, stimulating both language and thought centres. David Abrams, writer of “The Spell of the Sensuous,” is just such an author. In this excerpt he writes of sitting in a cave behind a waterfall in Bali, waiting out a rainstorm.
“The two spiders spun independently of each other, but to my eyes they wove a single intersecting pattern,” he writes. “This widening of my gaze soon disclosed yet another spider spiraling in the cave’s mouth, and suddenly I realized that there were many overlapping webs coming into being, radiating out at different rhythms from myriad centers poised- some higher, some lower, some minutely closer to my eyes and some farther- between the stone above and the stone below.
“I sat stunned and mesmerized before this ever-complexifying expanse of living patterns upon patterns, my gaze drawn like a breath into one converging group of lines, then breathed out into open space, then drawn down into another convergence…. My senses were entranced. I had the distinct impression that I was watching the universe being born, galaxy upon galaxy…”
Language is the material of our everyday reality. It can be mundane and low-brow, but it can also be thrilling and transcendent in the hands of the right author.