In the culture I come from, a saying is a magical thing. For my grandparents, a saying was something they were happy to hear. I grew up with grandmothers, both maternal and paternal, who spoke almost exclusively, at times, in sayings. A string of proverbs. Sing-songy, witty-wise remarks. When I found myself writing such things, it made sense for me to share them. You share a saying. You quote a saying. They come in handy when you are tongue-tied. My grandmother’s sayings were mostly commentaries on the divide between men and women. How men are dogs. How the man will be lying on one woman’s breast and already considering the next woman. How love will prove your undoing, but without love what taste does life have? How, rather the shadow of a man than the shadow of four walls. Not sayings that necessarily spoke to me as a child, but the idea of speaking in sayings, and of generalizing from particulars, stuck with me.
—Yahia Lababidi, the Pushcart-nominated poet and author from his Agni interview titled “The Prayer of Attention”
What are some of your favorite sayings that you use or have been passed on down to you?
I hold great admiration for people I’ve met on the way who can reel off any number of aphorisms or colorful one-liners at any one time. My favorites are the sayings so particular to a region that they could be from no place else. They often make me laugh because they’re so creative, even if I have no idea what they mean.
About the image: Visitors to Olvar Wood hang sayings on a light above a table each time they visit. (photo: Jason Nahrung/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)