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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Listening

At the poetry reading the other night I began to compose my own poems in my head. One was going to be titled "The future is a foreign country." It was about how the future had a spurious clarity to it, and would send back simplistic messages to our shifting, shiftless present. How the main flaw of the future was its reverence for the crappy wisdom of a past more distant than our present, a past which, after all, in its own time had only been a shiftless present of its own. There is more to it than that, various twists on the relation between past, present, and future, that I could reconstruct if I wanted, though in a different configuration. I do remember the phrase "shifting, shiftless present," which I was quite proud of at the time. I liked how those two adjectives seemed to both negate and complement each other.

The second poem was about how I could weave fictions of my own while listening to a superb poet read her work, but that these fabrications would dissipate once the reading was over. I would never write these poems. The electrifying creativity I would experience was a form of resistant listening, that would never have been possible without that poet's voice. The third poem I have forgotten.

I thought afterwards that I should have turned off that counter-narrative, listening only to the voice of the poet I was there to hear, rather than weaving my own poems in and out of hers. It was a failure of reception. Or maybe not. Maybe mine was the proper response. Would I want my listeners to turn off their mental monologues and attend only to my insistent voice? I don't think so.

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