My writers’ groups are an eclectic bunch. Both the real and virtual ones. Talk about diversity of genre: science-fictioneers, literary sorts, an essayist, several short story supremos, a fantasist, flash fiction champion, a screenwriter, several children’s and YA authors, an eroticist and several colleagues in crime.
But where my real group differs to the virtual is in diversity of background. True, native English speakers from the US and the UK dominate. But we are lucky enough to have people from Finland, Turkey, the Dominican Republic, India, Denmark and happily, Switzerland.
I feel lucky. And a little abashed. Because these amazing individuals can write, and write beautifully, in a second language. Not only that, but they achieve a freedom a native speaker cannot.
Unbound by the cliché of collocation, many of these writers create fresh, surprising images and their prose, or poetry, is all the richer for it. A creativity with syntax, whether through unfamiliarity with that of English, or familiarity with their mother tongue, generates original expressions and ambiguous concepts.
Here are a few random extracts from a Turkish writer of short stories:
Within our racehorse minds of adolescence.
Couldn’t get a joy of the breath I was forced, I felt like a newborn, I needed to cry, I needed to push out that air.
I wanted her. Not just her eyes, I wanted to catch her hair. I wanted to unbutton her blouse in the name of passion.
All images which made me stop and consider. What does ‘catch her hair’ really mean?
From Finland, this hypnotic piece which deserves to be read aloud.
The blue gleaming moon, the Stranger, had last been seen full and close in the sky many years past. Now it was back, vexing the reliable yellow satellite, the Guardian. Double full moon was a time of spirits, or beings of the immaterial sort.
I felt a mantle of moonbeams on my skin, wrapping me in their warm embrace.
The willing ones, the witches, were the ones to fear in particular. Though they worked their spells hidden among common folk, humans were no longer the people they called their own.
Let those paths lie in the hands of witches and mages, dreamers and crazies.
So rich in sounds and symbols, and so strangely perfect.
A Swiss friend is writing about the reality of death. The book is surprisingly upbeat and affirming. Some extracts below:
Showing the pieces of beauty that lay hidden inside a catastrophe.
And the voice will add that only you yourself will be to blame if you die for your lack of self-confidence. Your beloved ones are going through the same emotions but at different wavelengths.
Cancer is the heavy bell of the wake-up call that turns into the weight at your ankle in the deep water of despair.
I could never write such densely weighted concepts with such a chiaroscuro of lightness and gravitas.
An Indian writer is working on a children’s book, about cricket and imagination. He has a stunning skill with direct yet unusual imagery and deeply satisfying rhythms.
But his pictures didn’t look like galaxies at all, they looked like burnt egg omelets.
What a mighty bummer, the size of the biggest cricket stadium in the whole world.
If Ziptux had the plinkies and was really imagining all this, he would only touch air, not a real person. *
Another children’s writer from Denmark has a delicate ability with alliteration and sound. I suspect she’d make a brilliant rapper.
Life is tough, then you die. The first five words didn’t disturb him; their cool orange and blue patterns would make anyone proud. The black scrawl of the last word stood out. Was it intentionally ugly and unfinished, or did the lack of colour reflect a need for speed towards the end?
Millions of freckles fought for space in his face.
The last word continued to echo inside his head, die, die, die, as if it was an order spoken in a void.
There’s something limitless, unpredictable and exciting about these writers. As Melvyn Bragg says in The Adventure of English: [English] continues to reinvent new Englishes wherever it goes and shows no sign at all of slowing down.
Hooray for that.
* PS: Here’s the wonderfully talented Brijesh reading an extract, including his excellent line above.