Pratt, Mary Louise

Professor Mary Louise Pratt

Mary Louise Pratt

Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

Silver Dialogues Essay

It was a fancy California wedding party at a big Bay Area hotel. The groom's family spoke Urdu, and the bride's spoke Gujarati and Urdu. Both were practicing Muslims, but she was from southern California, sometimes regarded by northerners as too laid-back. The groom was attended by his two best friends from high school, one of Mexican-Jewish-Anglo parentage and the other of Chinese and Japanese descent via Hawai'i and Sacramento. The groom's younger sister was master of ceremonies. During a long program of toasts and tributes, English was the lingua franca, with a few departures for jokes or tears (it was the fathers who wept). Two poets performed. One, an elder known for his verbal skill and love of literature, recited a long celebratory poem in Urdu that deeply moved many of the adults. The other was a friend of the newlyweds, a young man of Syrian and Anglo-American parents. He performed in English a long lively poem, also composed for the occasion and rooted in contemporary hip-hop. The Mexican-Jewish-Anglo best man brought down the house with a bilingual Urdu-English joke a youngster had told him. I marveled yet again at the gorgeous, strenuous creativity of our transculturated young. At the same time I mourned the fact that the younger poet, a lover of literature who taught English at a community college, would probably never have a chance to study the elder's poetic tradition or that of his own Syrian parent. Read More...