Language. Mobility. Environment.

‘Mi have een Droom’, by Ramsey Nasr.

What Dutch might sound like in 2059.

Humankind is bound to change, and so are languages. Dante couldn’t almost believe to his own conclusions, whereas nowadays we simply get away with the fact that our grandparents used to speak differently than they themselves do now – let alone the earlier generations. The gap widens the farther we look back. Dutch poet Ramsey Nasr has taken up the challenge and has played with it. In a very effective way, I’d dare to add. Mi have een droom (I have a dream) is set in Rotterdam, in 2059. It’s the monologue of a Rotterdammer who ponders upon the changes the city has gone through. What’s most interesting about this poem is the language Nasr has created anew blending colloquial Dutch with English, street slang (straattaal), imbued with the language of migrants, such as Arabic and Surinamese.

wullah, poetry poet, let mi takki you 1 ding: di trobbi hier is dit ben van me eigen now zo 66 jari & skerieus ben geen racist, aber alle josti op een stokki, uptodate, wats deze shit?

Nasr imagines what the language of the future looks and sounds like, on the basis of that linguistic freedom that typifies modern languages and experiments all the different possibilities that the Dutch he knows and overhears in the street can offer. The outcome is exceptional, and a nice, pretty job to listen to even if you are not familiar with the Dutch tongue. I fell in love Nasr’s own recite of his poem: the way he utters every single words, the way he moves his hands make it sound plausible, realistic even. He creates a language that works, because it gives voice to a real society that has changed the face and soul of our cities. The twofold Dutch-Palestinian identity of the poet might have a significant impact on the general ideas running in this particular work, but it doesn’t matter that much in the end. It’s the story of stories, the outburst of crowds speaking different languages and praying different gods. Nasr stitches these voices together – their sounds and tones, their imperfections and irreverence. This is the way society is going; language simply re-constructs itself following the same pattern. Is language actually impoverishing its forms and expressions, or has today’s language been enriched by the interference of the language of the ‘newcomers’?. The language Nasr invents is a breach in the linguistic borders as we know them, a wild fire wrapping everything up – or at least this is what is going to happen in 2059. For now, we just get the early sparks. Interview with Poet Laureate Ramsay Nasr (in Dutch) – the complete poem can be found on the last page.

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