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Poetic language is one of the most melodic and specific languages in the world. Its separate words, combinations of words, and the whole sentences are characterized by certain meanings and purposes. To comprehend the essence of the message offered by the author in the poem, it is necessary to pay special attention to its each word. Gina Valdes is famous by unbelievable tension and metaphysical features in her poetry, and English Con Salsa is one of her brightest poems that is full of captivating and witty words.
Their colors, abilities to describe ordinary things in the most interesting ways, and connection to cultural and social aspects attract reader’s attention from the first lines. Poetic language and combination of English and Spanish used by Valdes is unique indeed and makes the reader accept these two different languages as one whole unit; in English Con Salsa, the author is not afraid to play with both English and Spanish words in order to explain their meaning and their peculiarities.
Use of words and their meanings. It is very important to admit the nature of the title of the poem. English Con Salsa. It becomes clear that the author makes use of two absolutely different cultures, English and Spanish, in her own way and enjoys the results she achieves. The idea of duality is not new, and it is not that difficult to comprehend what the author wants to represent and express. One of the first expressions that attract my attention is “welcome, muchachos…learn the language of dolares and dolores” (Valdes 251).
hese lines show that the author tries to involve different people into this poem: those who know a lot about English culture, those who know a little about English customs, and those who know a lot about Spanish style of life and are eager to learn more about English traditions. It is not enough to comprehend the meaning of separate words in this poem; it is more important to realize why they are used here and what they represent. English is not a simple language.
English is the language of “king and queens, of Donald Duck and Batman… George Washington” (Valdes 251). To make it more like a Spanish poem, the author combine the words of both languages and introduce the idea of English language by means of Spanish expressions: “English con sal y limon” or students’ desire to speak English “refrito” or “requinto” (Valdes 251).
If all these words are taken separately, it becomes a bit difficult to comprehend their meanings and author’s decision to use them. Frequent use of names both English and Spanish may disturb at once because it is impossible to guess that they are just names. This is why it is useless to divide this poem into some parts with some words but accept it as one thing, one story, and one message.
Play of words. I was pleasantly amazed how Valdes can easily play with words and with the lines. I enjoy this poem because my bilingual background allows me to comprehend both Spanish and English messages. However, the rules of the game introduced by Valdes become more and more complicate that makes me take a look in the dictionary and enlarge my level of knowledge. I was a bit confused with the use of one English word “jug”.
I know such combinations like clay gun, clay ball, clay pot, etc. But it is impossible to find out a clear definition, a concrete image of the combination “clay jug”. It is necessary but still impossible to comprehend what the author wants to tell. Let it be her own rules of the game where she continues to play. And I think that only those readers who can easily accept the suggested rules may certainly enjoy the results, author’s message, and such captivating combination of two different languages.
The main idea of her poetry is clear. I enjoy each word. Even after several years of studying English, some people may still answer “Si” to the question “Do you speak English?” It should not be a sign of human weakness or inability to think and speak the chosen language.
It is just a proof that people are devoted to one native language and cannot betray it. Gina Valdes shares her own vision of Spanish and English languages in her English Con Salsa, and the reader has the right to read it till the end and enjoy or to be confused and not able to finish reading.
Valdes, Gina. “English Con Salsa”. In Dana Gioia California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present. Berkley: Heyday Books, 2004.