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The Art of Emojetry

August 4, 2020 by

Blame my great-grandma. She started it.

Her mistake was reading us “The Gray Squirrel” by Humbert Wolfe in our third grade poetry class. And in my young heart, a seed was planted, only to lie dormant through the intellectually arid years of my adolescence, when my bow rack was a lot less dusty than my bookshelf. But, rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, and with moisture the hard shell split, sending up a green and tender shoot. Which happened to come up in a classroom in Bogota, Colombia. 

I believe poetry surrounds us, infuses us, waiting only to be imperfectly transcribed, the words merely a cracked floorboard into the soul – communication on the deepest level. 

I believe poetry surrounds us, infuses us, waiting only to be imperfectly transcribed.Communication. That is why I am in this classroom in the first place, studying anthropology and linguistics in Spanish. It’s fascinating, really. That humans have always possessed a language in some form is a reasonable supposition. But that original language, lost in the misty and mammoth-hunting past, is a puzzle even for the likes of Noam Chomsky. However, an estimated forty to fifty thousand years ago, the first rock etchings appeared. Colorful bulls, horses, hunters, handprints, and geometric designs followed, running exuberant paths over rocky walls.

Now we live in the “age of connectivity” with smartphones, instant messaging, Instagram, and TikTok. Communication has changed drastically since that first laborious etching. But has it really? How different is an Instagram page from my cave wall, both recording special life experiences? Or is the lunchtime hamburger emoji I send my buddy vastly different from the mammoth barbecue inscribed in some dank cavern in France?

I guess the emoji was inevitable, ever since Egyptian hieroglyphs walked across papyrus or mythical Mayan characters frolicked on the pages of the Popol Vuh. It is, after all, how we have always done it.

With that in mind, I have translated some favorite poems into the universal language. Behold, the ancient, newborn art of emojetry.

First, two haikus translated from two of the great Japanese masters, Kobayashi Issa and Matsuo Bashō. As both emojis and haikus are originally Japanese, I thought it made a good synthesis, with the emojis expressing well the key elements of a haiku: simplicity, beauty, and sudden illumination.

 O 🐌,      
O snail,
Climb Mt. Fuji,
But slowly, slowly! 
I got drunk, a sleep.
And wept on the dream.
A wild cherry blossoms.

Follow that with some Dylan Thomas – here, a translation of “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”



♂👌🏽♂, ⏮🌊➡,😭💥


♂💀♂, 🔜⚰️, 👀👁=🙈

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


About the author


Vincent Moody

Vincent Moody lives in Platte Clove, our community in the Catskill Mountains.

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