Here is a lengthy quotation from Enrique’s Wordcraft course, pp. 17-18:


“The "Language of the Birds" is a metaphor describing a way of reading a text in which language moves forward by means of puns and wordplay rather than being guided by a narrative. Reading becomes the act of detecting patterns rather than the act of interpreting symbols. In this way, language becomes a 'pataphysical oracle, a mechanistic structure in which every word provides the means for its own derailment; words provide us with a way to swerve away from words.

This Language of the Birds seems to come from Provençal poetry, from a time when troubadours composed "cants" that were called "open" when they meant what they said, and "closed" when they said one thing but meant something else. Troubadours were the "makers of tropes", craftsmen of that sense of ambiguity that is the foundation of the poetic experience. Other names for the Language of the Birds are "green language" and "gai sçavoir", or "gay science". This is the science of the merry and unbridled language of poetry.

Ordinary reality is the domain of prose, and magic is the domain of poetry, a space where the structure of cause and effect is broken. We only get there once we run out of reasonable options, not so much to hope for the unreasonable, as to look for the unexpected. Poetry is based on magical thinking, as it operates under the rules of analogical causation. What is poetry but the laws of Sympathetic Magic applied to language?

In a poem, words seem to be magically linked by means of their aural or visual similarity. Once two words have been glued by this formal correspondence, we take the connection to be a form of "truth". In the Language of the Birds, grammar recedes to the background and form moves to the forefront. Form derails us from its function. We become readers of the word in the world.

We could consider the Language of the Birds as an imaginary folklore that links a whole lineage of poets, from the Provençal troubadours to Clement Marot, Rabelais, Gerard de Nerval, Alfred Jarry, Raymond Roussel, some of the surrealists like André Bretón, Michael Leiris and the elusive Marcel Duchamp. Most recently, that lineage continued through the OuLiPo group (which are the French ’pataphysicians), the Canadian ‘pataphisicians, like bp Nichol, Steve Mc- Caffery, Victor Coleman, their offspring Christian Bök, and also some Fluxus artists ...”