The first time I got to know about the poem “Discourse on the Logic of Language” was from YouTube. I stumbled across a video of the Canadian poet M. NourbeSe Philip reading her poem to a group of audiences. What attracted me first was the feeling of the African drum beats hidden within these lines. Philip brings into English the great rhythm and musicality of African tongues, decentralizing the English language and embodying within it some kind of Black identity.
“Discourse on the Logic of Language” - M. NourbeSe Philip English is my mother tongue. A mother tongue is not not a foreign lan lan lang language l/anguish anguish -a foreign anguish. English is my father tongue. A father tongue is a foreign language, therefore English is a foreign language not a mother tongue. What is my mother tongue my mammy tongue my mummy tongue my momsy tongue my modder tongue my ma tongue? I have no mother tongue no mother to tongue no tongue to mother to mother tongue me I must therefore be tongue dumb dumb-tongued dub-tongued damn dumb tongue but I have a dumb tongue tongue dumb father tongue and English is my mother tongue is my father tongue is a foreign lan lan lang language l/anguish anguish a foreign anguish is English— another tongue my mother mammy mummy moder mater macer moder tongue mothertongue tongue mother tongue me mothertongue me mother me touch me with the tongue of your lan lan lang language l/anguish anguish english is a foreign anguish
While reading the poem, the words that came into my mind are anguish, painful, lost. It depicts the identity problem of many Black people who are suppressed – not physically, but mentally – with the power of language.
The “mother tongue” that is talked about in the poem is their native languages that are sometimes forbidden in colonial age, while the “father tongue” here implies the English language brought to the colonies. Years after years, native people have gotten used to speaking English and forgot their mother tongue– the language that holds in itself cultural heritages and national identities. This may result in the feeling of being lost and a loss of Black identity in people.
Also, the fact that “father tongue” defeats “mother tongue” could be a sign of sexism. Apart from talking about racism, Philip, according to my understanding, is criticizing here the patriarchal society where males take control of everything, and it leads to anguish and depression.
Though written years ago, the poem even fits the societies nowadays where racial equality is still a big issue that needs maybe years to be achieved. It gave readers the chance to know deeper the entangled feelings of Black people and Black identity and explains to readers – even possibly to Black people themselves – the various reasons for them feeling lost.