Monday, March 24, 2014

Word of the Week - 3

Word of the Week:  GRIOT

Pronounced gree-oh, I met the word in a review of poet Tim Seibles' collection Hurdy-Gurdy last week.  I'm not sure I had ever read or heard it before.  Defined as "any of a class of musician-entertainers of western Africa whose performances include tribal histories and genealogies; broadly :  storyteller"
Poet Tim Seibles
This is the quote in which it appeared:
Listening to Tim Seibles sing the poems in this sizzling collection is like listening to the voice of the griot praising, admonishing, cursing, blessing, and calling us together. . . . As a reader of poetry, I appreciated his exquisite crafting and cool, streetwise lyricism. And as a somewhat envious fellow poet, I wished that every rich, textured stanza were mine. (Patricia Smith)

I imagine you can understand why I needed to make the acquaintance of griot.  It was one of those words that bumped into me like a pickpocket at the carnival in another age, helping me to my feet, brushing the sawdust from my sleeve, looking me in the eye.  It is a word that makes me happy it exists, that there is a specific name for such a group, such a person.  It overflows the banks of storyteller and meanders in all directions.
Toumani Diabate, griot.
There are names and phrases by which we might choose to be identified, collections of words that paint who we believe or know ourselves to be, definitions of all to which we aspire.  Twenty years ago, two friends and I met on Saturday mornings and worked through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way until we each arrived at a seemingly unreachable destination.  For me it involved having a rubber stamp made of my name with the word artist on the line beneath.  In the same chamber of imagination where I once pictured my foot fitting into the faux glass slipper that held the Cinderella wristwatch, I will now dream of the California girl who somehow grew, morphed, blossomed and expanded into being likened to a girot. Any of us who seek to bend and tame language, even for a moment, to our will could share the longing.


susan t. landry said...

we just heard about this film...looks great--but i dont know if it's available at netflix.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - Thank you, I had no idea. We'll check and see. If you see it first, will you please tell me more? xo

Radish King said...

I ran into a lot of Griot street musicians and saw some play in Preservation Hall in New Orleans. O bog how I love that city.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - Sometimes there is so much to discover I can hardly breathe. The world of griot unfolds. Though I've never been to New Orleans, pieces of it live in my heart. I can imagine you there. xo

RachelVB said...

This is a great word. I get very excited over the "word porn" page on Facebook. I'm glad to know there are words for some of the world's most beautiful things. xoxo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel = Isn't it a fine word? And so much easier than having to take the long way 'round. xo