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  Ingrid Wendt
Ingrid Wendt
Ingrid Wendt
, is the author of the book of poetry Moving the House, and coeditor of the anthologies From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry and In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts. Her latest book of poetry, The Angle of Sharpest Ascending from Wordtech Editions, is a haunting suite of poetic sequences about the German dimension of World War II and the ways it touches our modern experience. As Ingrid Wendt writes in the book's preface, "I also believe in the importance—for the future safety of our country, our world—of trying to understand how perpetrators of violence can do violence to themselves, can be victims of wrong teaching, of mass hysteria, of propaganda. To recognize that evil can be taught." She conducts poetry workshops and residencies in public schools and universities throughout the United States, most recently with the faculty of the MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

from Learning the Mother Tongue

Ingrid Wendt

It's wicked, I know, but sometimes I can't help feeling just
the tiniest glee when my good German friend, whose English tongue
has mastered the footwork of all Swan Lake ballet, stumbles over
the English translation of wenn, saying "if" when she really means
"when," and vice versa,
while I, good German American, keep
clumping along: learning the word Kopfsalat, for example ("head
lettuce"), so proud of myself: first time in the land of all four
grandparents, shopping for salad, asking the produce clerk "Haben Sie
ein Kopf, bitte?" "Ja, naturlich
," she answers. "Und Sie?"


But this is what comes of book learning, not every day stretching
the tongue: discipline, discipline, flash cards, syllables
splashing in and out of the ear

out of context: out of their forests
of kelp: circling, circling, whole
words unbidden as fragments of tunes

Denkbar, I hear, and it's one of those reef fish floating up
to my face mask, right out of my fish classification book
but right then the name won't come, I have to look it up

Ergebnis, I hear, (outcome/result)
Abgeschiedenheit (solitude): listen
what am I telling myself, and in whose voice?

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