A friend of mine’s brother is changing his Polish name to a shorter English version now that his wife is pregnant with their first child. His parents are devastated that their grandchild will not have their name. Don’t even get me started on why the young wife has already given up her own name and why in the 21st century women still take a man’s name in the first place.
For years my partner thought her family name was Scottish and always looked for ‘their’ tartan on any trip only to learn one day that their original name had been Jewish, changed to fit in better and not from a Scottish clan at all.
My grandparents were known by more than one name which confused me as a child – they’d been on the run first from the Gestapo then the Communists.
You probably know more stories like these? It has crossed my mind that I might be more successful as an artist if people in this country knew how to say my surname. I’m not about to change it. But you can now learn how to say it by clicking on the soundfile below.
Stakes differ for those crossing borders. Many people still lose their lives, livelihoods, languages, names and identities and are faced with life and death choices about where to remain. Once they leave they can’t go back, for fear of political reprisals,imprisonment or because they simply can’t afford their passage back and forth.
Whereas for others the sea we cross represents adventure, a way forward to the exploration of new ideas. And for some of us it’s a mixture of both, genuine choice and pressure – a release from feeling stifled or a loss of the communities we grew up in – bringing ordinary moments of awkwardness, excitement.
In the Spring issue of Poetry Wales Ágnes Lehóczky writes about ‘impromptu intersections’ and that ‘third’ ‘hybrid’ dialect arising from them between her native Hungarian and her second language, English, which she now writes in. I could really identify with her piece, though my Polish is a younger self’s language as I grew up over here. I’ve always believed poetry creates language of its own and, at best, transcends social boundaries. In a sense all the art we create is hybrid, a movement between then and now as so many of you have expressed in the beautiful, inspiring answers you have been sending in to my 3 questions. Keep them coming!
There is still some time left (said without a trace of panic in her voice) in my residency which has become like a giant creative writing workshop itself that you are all taking part in. Soon you will be able to see the materials from the fantastic Allsorts youth workshop last night – currently being uploaded as I write and tonight it’s the Queer Writers Show and Tell evening at Fabrica! Dot dash dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dash dot dot dash! or just: …!