Saturday, October 25, 2008

Messages and Signs

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.


Paul Lisicky said...

Don't we see that same girl in our neighborhood all the time? I like this post a lot.

lu said...

"Language as wilderness"
It's just this kind of idea that has me lingering here between you and Paul. If you could indulge me for a few wild words I'd like to throw these out to you and Paul.
I teach high school writing, literature and remedial reading classes in Wichita, Kansas. While we have wonderful pockets of open minded, thoughtful artist of all types, they are scattered and fairly closed communities. Once out of the world of academia, one gets lost in the sea of more conservative folk. These kinds of observations and the appreciation of turning these into the art of words is lost on most people within earshot. My reputation as a great eccentric, a throw back, a wild pony novelty keeps my creative writing classes afloat, while it does nothing to improve my stature as a serious educator with my colleagues. I work in a school where the AP instructor was given the position for her ability keep her files in alphabetical order without taking into account her inability to distinguish the difference in definition between Omnipotent and Omniscient.
So, the point being, I appreciate the opportunity to linger here, to engage, grab hold of some of the wild words and make them my's a privilege that I hope is not lost on you.
My Blog began and has stalled as one of "those" diaries of personal angst, a place to work through a dark divorce. I would be ever grateful if you and Paul have a spare second and could take a peak, let me know if you see anything that in it that might merit a spring board away from so much sentiment and personal blah, blah, piteous blah. Maybe give me an idea of something that you might be interested in reading.
And, just so you know, I’m one hundred shades of green with all the talk of the travel and life in a world that is much bigger than I’ve experienced, but I never underestimate the power of living vicariously.

lu said...


...if you might take a peek.

(Freudian slippage?)

Elizabeth said...

"the world of language as wilderness" -- I like that phrase and stumbled onto your blog as I struggle to make language, to articulate the essential silence of my daughter, who has no language. Messages and signs, indeed! Thank you.

Collin Kelley said...

Insanely jealous that you are in London. Have a brilliant time!