I read tonight in London, at Poetry International, an every-other-year festival at the Southbank Centre on the Thames. It was a fine time; I walked over from where I'm staying, near the Tate Britain and the Vauxhall Bridge, along the South Bank. When you get to the London Eye it's a carnival, with an old merry-go-round spinning and a huge line of people waiting to go on the enormous super ferris wheel, which is white and looks both futuristic and industrial. I read with the Palestinian poet Mourid Bhargouti, the Byelorussian Valzynha Mort -- those two had subtitles projected -- and Jorie Graham. Jorie and I were jealous of the subtitles; there's something great about having your words appear in print as you speak.
All the poems I read were from THEORIES AND APPARITIONS, and they all concerned acts of speaking of one kind or another -- the little bat squeaking in the West Country, the boy in a Houston bookstore reciting Shelley, me yelling at a jerk on 8th Avenue who almost ran me over, the wily masseurs at the chi gong parlor getting Paul and me to fork over some serious cash. I was thinking about the way the poems concern utterances that either get heard by someone they aren't meant for, or are broadcast into the public sphere, or miss their targets, or don't say what they mean in the first place. It's the world of language as wilderness, the signs inscrutable or misleading, the speeches blowing around us like city trash.
And then I'm walking home and there's this girl standing on a median strip by herself, yelling into her cell phone. I thought only Americans did that. She's yelling over and over again, You sent me the same text message fifty times, stop it! You sent me the same text message fifty times, stop it! As she moves away her voice gets fainter. I'm pretty sure there's no one on the other end of the phone.