Examples of Multilingual Poetry

When we say ‘multilingual poetry’, what do we mean?

At the AMWP, ‘multilingual poetry’ (also referred to as diglossic poetry, polylingual poetry, and polyglot poetry) means poetry that uses two or more languages in a single poem.

Multilingual poetry can feature one ‘carrier’ or main language that makes up most of the poem and that is broken up by words and phrases in another language or other languages. See, for example, Lorna Dee Cervantes’s poem ‘Freeway 280’.

Multilingual poetry can feature two languages weaving in and out of each other, like Sandra Maria Esteves’s ‘Puerto Rican Discovery #3: Not Neither’.

Multilingual poetry can feature two or more languages used in approximately the same proportion, like the poems in Antoine Cassar’s book, Mużajk. You can read and listen to poems from the book here. Another example is Elia Maqueda’s audiovisual ‘Babelia Hetergenia’.

These are just some examples – in truth there are as many ways of incorporating multiple languages into poetry as there are multilingual poets, and no one model is ‘correct’. Perhaps the only ‘rule’ is that the languages must each serve an aesthetic and/or semantic purpose and contribute to the effect of the poem as a whole.