The Foster Words Project
Autobiography of The Foster Words Project
Little Word, who are you?
Every single word contains, in its etymological autobiography, a map or record of its life story as a unit of human meaning across time - as sculpted or deformed in relation to transformations in culture and shifts in power – a history of relationships.
Little Word, what have you done?
As a poet, I will be exploring etymologies of your “donated” words, their life histories, towards exploring how, like bodies (human, animal and plant), words, as collective and collaborative organisms, have been sites of: birth, invention, innovation, ownership, identity, suppression, hybridity, disposability, influence, belonging, exclusion, resilience, relation: and possibility.
Little Word, have you maimed me?
I will work to engage Kathryn Yusoff’s invitation to examine the anthropocene as a complex socio-political era, and to create a poetic archive that is, as she suggests, a more responsible way to understand the archive form itself: as attentive to both “cultural bias, possibility, and violence.”
An incomplete poetic archive of the anthropocene, conceived of, in the words of Barbara Godard, as:
“Ever iterable, reproduceable, this is the promise of the archive, meaning which is never closed and open to the future, but which consequently undermines every form of order as it is contingently assembles from shards of the past”
I will also be exploring, and hopefully expanding, ideas of what “etymology” can mean. For example, the study of etymology is often applied as a truth-seeking quest for stable meanings based in exclusive religious origins and Western philosophical traditions, similar to “exegesis.” However, etymologies can also be tracked in a more secular, historical or anthropological fashion, towards studying the imprints of culture and power on the shifting meanings and shapes of words. I will study the cultural histories of words, exploring also how words become part of our minds and bodies, residing at the very heart of our identities and perceptions/constructions of the future.
Little Word, have you placed us in chains?
This project is inspired by the essay “Personal Knowledge” in which Michael Polanyi claims that: “We use language to constitute reality... we do this together, in a culture, and that culture, by its creations, can influence future thought.” In trust, in fear, that acts of speech have the possibility of invention.
Or, in the words of poet Danielle LaFrance: “…only an old dirty power to BAM.”
Little Word, can you bring forth the rains?
The conception of this project owes a debt of gratitude to Knowledge Keeper Rueben Quinn who shared his oral histories of the changing shapes of Cree words with me during our studies.