Weekly Poem: From ‘Fundamentals of Esperanto’

BY Arts Desk  June 15, 2009 at 10:52 AM EDT

By Srikanth Reddy

As we speak, Esperanto is being corrupted
by upset languages such as Interlingua,
Klingon, Java & various cryptophasic tongues.

Our only hope of reversing this trend is to write
the Esperanto epic. Through its grandeur
& homegrown humility, it will spur men

to freeze the mutating patios so the children
of our children’s children may dwell in this song
& find comfort in its true texture & frame.

It’s worth a try. As I imagine it, it ends
in the middle of things. Every line of the work
is a first & a last line & this is the spring

of its action. Of course, there’s a journey
& inside that journey, an implicit voyage
through the underworld. There’s a bridge

made of boats; a carp stuffed with flowers;
a comic dispute among sweetmeat vendors;
a digression on shadows; men clapping

in fields to scare away crows; an unending list
of warships: The Unternehmen, The Impresa,
The Muyarchi, Viec Lam, The Przedsiebiorstwo,

The Indarka, The Enterprise, L’Entreprise,
Entrepeno… One could go on. But by now,
all the characters have turned into swallows

& bank as one flock in the sky-that is,
all except one. That’s how we finally learn
who the hero was all along. Weary & old,

he sits on a rock & watches his friends
fly by one by one out of the song,
then turns back to the journey they all began

long ago, keeping the river to his right.

“Fundamentals of Esperanto” is from “Facts for Visitors” by Srikanth Reddy. Copyright 2005; the Regents of the University of California. Published by University of California Press. Reddy is an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago._

“Fundamentals of Esperanto” is also included in the Poetry Foundation’s Chicago Poetry Tour, a multimedia tour of poetry written in and about Chicago. (Disclosure: The Poetry Foundation also funds the NewsHour’s poetry coverage.)

Featuring the work of a range of Chicago poets past and present and addressing a variety of neighborhoods and landmarks—for Reddy, that neighborhood is Bucktown—the tour includes archival and contemporary recordings of poets and scholars, local music and historic photographs.

The tour can be taken online or downloaded at www.poetryfoundation.org, and is available for download via iTunes. The tour will also be featured on the City of Chicago’s official tourism Web site, www.explorechicago.org.

Click here for last week’s Chicago poem.