Born in a Second Language poses the American question – what is it to become American and what is lost in the process?
Born in a Second Language troubles the spectrum between silence (or the limitations of the mouth) and music. Language is an embodied practice, especially present through our hands. Words, specifically names, are a means of conjuring a certain kind of existence, and defining who one will become.
Thus, different languages unlock different worlds, and the names speakers answer to open them up to different becomings.
Born in a Second Language is curious about the sonic, imagistic and linear implications on the page of speaking multiple languages when political, historical and cultural weights contend. It’s compelled by disappearance and how translation is often a mode through which it occurs across borders – a way in which we obliterate, often due to what is untranslatable and considered unwelcome, as we come into new selves in order to survive new territory.
Translation is not only a tool to understand language, but also a process that alters identity as speakers move through space and time. In the work, “home” is one’s body, gender, a mother, mother tongue, Brenda Fassie etc. How home is defined impacts each speaker’s positionality and perspective; it allows for understanding the connection between the interior and exterior worlds of the speakers. While the use of past geographical homes and history is, in some poems, nostalgic and in homage, the greater project aims to examine how these elements aren’t stagnant temporally but rather persist in and shape speakers presently.
About Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie
Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie is a Zambian-Ghanaian poet who grew up in Botswana. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. She is the author of Born in a Second Language, winner of Button Poetry’s 2019… MORE