At The End Of The Day, It’s All Semantics

, , , , , , | Learning | August 23, 2019

While I was doing my bachelor’s in linguistics, I also took a Norwegian practical writing course. It aimed to teach an academic approach on how to write, critique, and understand various genres of text. I was in it to improve my article writing proficiency.

We usually worked in groups in this course, and one of the assignments was writing and critiquing poetry. Our teacher was a major experimental poetry nerd, so we wrote various more or less serious poems without structure as jokes, but every member of our group wrote poems. I figured we would be fine. 

Then came the day when we were to turn in our poems, and I found out that I was the only one in our group that had actually finished any poems that I was willing to turn in. I was too flustered to be angry, so I just went into problem-solving mode. I grabbed the poems I felt done with, and I was one short to complete the assignment. While the teacher was going around getting the poems for other groups I was frantically going through my rucksack to see if I had anything. I found a page from a Semantics paper I had done. For non-linguists, that’s word-math. It’s strange lambda transformations, arrows, and brackets. It was one simple sentence, “John kicks the ball,” written five or six times in increasingly more obfuscated ways with various symbols scribbled around. “F*** it,” I thought, added it to the pile, and turned it in.

The week after, we were going through our poems in class, and the lecturer was beaming. One of the poems was just fantastic! It had broken with all convention while using simple language and yet conveyed so much meaning, life, and action. It was one of the best poems she had seen and was written by one of us. And then she held up the page from my Semantics paper and wanted to know who the poet was.

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