Perusing Poetics: Say Nothing, See Nothing

I promise that this week’s post will be an actual intellectual piece of reading material. I promise. Read on and see.

This week we read two really awesome things, and I had so many things to say about both of them. First we read excerpts from Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by Adam Bradley, and then we read an essay by Jerome Rothenberg from The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy. My initial reaction was, “Oh yeah totally doing something from Bradley because the only thing that Rothenberg’s got going is A REALLY ANNOYING USE OF THE AMPERSAND AGAIN AND AGAIN” but actually … I was wrong.

If you’re into Bradley’s book, I do highly recommend it. But my rant about persona and Truth and all that jazz got sidelined when Rothenberg gave me this little quote:

“The hypothesis would be: I see through language. And its corollary: without language, I am blind” (13).

Now, the quote that I instantly connected to before this one was “‘a new language must be found’ … not only for the sake of speaking but of seeing, knowing” and I was like “YEAH THAT SOUNDS AWESOME” (12). Then the one in block quotes came around a few sentences later and then I was like, “Hang on. What?”

At first, I took a step back and said, “Uh, no.” Because what sense does seeing with language make outside of reading? (I should probably have explained that a lot of Rothenberg’s focus is on “‘wordless’ oral poetries” [14].) My immediate reaction is that when I see a red flower, it doesn’t matter if the person next to me can communicate our shared vision or not because we’re both looking at the same red flower. (Also, I am aware I am working under the assumption we are both in possession of our sight. That is not a slight against those with blindness but rather I simply relating my own thought process given my privileged of having my sight mostly intact.)

Now let me back up a little bit. You may or may not know that I was abroad last year. Though I lived in London, I traveled in Europe a lot. The favorite question for people to ask when I came back is which place I went was my favorite. I always hedged this question by replying that I loved everywhere I went, but I was just more comfortable in places where I could adequately communicate, like Ireland and Scotland. When I traveled to Paris, Barcelona and Italy, I always had at least one travel buddy who spoke the language we needed. It is this experience that I drew on to refine this “hypothesis and corollary” in my own mind.

See, when traveling to new country where you don’t speak the language, the inability to communicate does feel like a type of blindness and a sense of invisibility all at the same time. Especially on public transportation, you feel removed from reality in a sense. There is all this chatter happening around you, but you can’t understand a word of it. You can’t overhear a funny story someone is telling or engage with a shopkeeper about buying a silly souvenir. Sure, you can get by with pointing and playing charades, but it is the most physical feeling of living in an alternate reality that I have ever had.

This is especially potent when someone you’re traveling with DOES speak the language. They end up ordering for the group at dinner or getting directions or navigating the public transportation. This isn’t a bad thing; I’m forever thankful for my friends for this. I might have died from anxiety otherwise. But when someone else can jump into a dialogue before you can, the muzzling effect is deafening. Perhaps this is just me, being someone who is not accustomed to taking a backseat for extended periods of time–and really wanting to be in complete control of every situation–but that is the deepest truth I can admit about traveling in those countries.

Again, I don’t regret those travels. They were some of the most amazing experiences of my life. But this was also certainly a part of my experience. It just wasn’t something I connected with the act of seeing until Rothenberg said it. I think of the five senses as five separates. But the truth is, as with much of the human experience, nothing is separate. Everything we do or don’t do feeds into something else with simple cause and effect.

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An Open Letter to 2014 (and that London wrap up you never got)

It’s been a crazy time since I last wrote, what with finals and coming home and such. Then there was family to see an holidays to celebrate and then, without taking a beat, this amazing year has less than 24 hours left to it. (And yes, this is going to be one of those sappy, life affirming posts. You’ve been warned.)

About time to do a wrap up post. However, I don’t think I could do one about London without talking about the events leading up to it anyways, so this works out rather well.

2013 was not a good year for me. It was a year that a lot of things ended. A lot of big things. The biggest one–the one that started me on this very slippery slope–was my choice and not one I would take back, but it still led to learning a lot of things I’d rather have never known about myself or some of the people around me. Oh well.

So enter 2014. Me swearing up and down that I was getting better. That I was healing. It just seemed like every time I got a bit of clarity, something would happen or been said and I’d swing back in the other direction. By the summer I was running in circles so hard and fast I had my best friends planning an intervention. I could see the rut I was in, but I didn’t know how to get out of it and I was just about ready to leave myself there.

It was exactly the right time to put myself on a plane and stick myself in the middle of legit foreign territory.

Honestly, the beginning of my study abroad wasn’t the greatest time of my life either. I made some pretty major choices that a smarter person wouldn’t have made, ones that wrecked me out again before I could even really get started. I got there in the middle of August, and by the middle of September I was convinced I’d already fucked up so majorly that there was no going back, that the rut had followed me, and that all the things I hated about myself were maybe things I should just accept and stop beating myself up about them.

It’s a good thing I’m so desperately stubborn.

I didn’t want to be stuck. Studying abroad is the greatest time to make that decision, because you literally aren’t allowed to be. I didn’t have the time to wallow in my own self-loathing, because there was always so much to do. More than that, I had ample opportunity to overcome major fears that I’d never really been able to confront before. I’m not going to spell out every little life lesson I learned, but the major one for me was the fear that I would never, ever been able to stand on my own–in anything. Studying abroad showed me how strong I could be without even trying.

So between London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Barcelona and my multi-city Italy adventure, there was the good, the bad and everything in between. There were a few people who made my life difficult, but there were also people who were practically just acquaintances when this all started who are now the kind of friends I’d walk through fire for and trust would do the same for me. Most importantly, there is this realization here, at the end of it all, that I don’t regret a single thing–especially the bad decisions that left me in a puddle of tears at the time. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to find the solid footing that I needed.

I actually ended up getting a tattoo a week after I got back from Paris because, even then, this journey meant so much to me that I needed to give myself a reminder. The word I got on my right wrist, Surprises, really doesn’t mean anything to anyone except for me, but that’s exactly the point. To me, it symbolizes the past two years and is a physical reminder for the next time things get bad (because they will, that’s life), things do get better. I threw in the towel on myself so many times but thanks to the support of the friends around me I kept going just enough to get to this moment where I can say, “I am stronger now.”

If 2013 was the year I broke, 2014 was the year I started building again. I know I’m hardly done yet, but at least this time I feel like I have a foundation that no one will be able to shatter as easily again–especially me. So thanks, 2014.

Such Oddness, Much Wow (Otherwise known as Barcelona)

1799006_10205648208069107_4964790468546682847_oThis is it. One last trip before we head home in eleven days. I can’t believe it. However, Sam and Madison and I were hardly going to be daunted by a lack of time and an influx of homework when the chance to travel to Barcelona, Spain, came up!

In a nice change, we left for Spain on Thursday night instead of Friday morning. This meant that moving into our hostel bunks while everyone else was asleep was a bit difficult, but it meant that we had the whole weekend to really sink our teeth into the city.

In the morning, we met up with a friend from the home campus who’s spent the semester 10685549_10205664971528183_2637685069801115340_nin Barcelona and ordered him to show us the sights. It was threatening to rain, but we gamely hopped around the city (dear Metro, how I love thee). One of our first stops was a market, so that Madison could replace the purse that had broken the night before. It was the strangest market we’d ever been to. You need antiques? Toilet seats? Underwear? They got it. (And Madison did find a purse.)

10599486_10205664978888367_2987625295561204200_nA few more bops on the Metro put us at the base of the National Catalan Museum of Art, which is really high up on a hill with a great set of fountains in front of it. We huffed and puffed our way up to the top and were richly rewarded with a view of the city. As we sat down to enjoy it, I just about started crying. Everything is coming to an end, and yet I’ve been so, so lucky this semester and in that moment I just felt ALL OF THAT. The guy singing on his guitar was also cool (especially when he sang “Legalize All Weed.” How … odd).

We did a bit more running around, past a few cathedrals, into a few more markets, until 10805737_10205664979928393_1019452571448705141_nwe finally got hungry enough to go get dinner. Though it was getting dark, we decided to buy some cheap bubbly and head down to the beach. I’ve never written a bucket list, but if I had “drinking on the shore of the Mediterranean” would totally have been on it, and now I can scratch that off. It was a fabulous night.

10425065_10205664984648511_2334261426668401106_nThe next day was the one filled with the most scheduled fun. We had bought tickets to Park Guell the night before, and were not disappointed despite the rain. It cleared up just enough for us to be able to enjoy roaming around all the Gaudi art and gorgeous flowers. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

After that we shot over to the Sagrada Familia, which we 10403154_10205665004849016_7385962425694758431_ndid not go inside because tickets were hella expensive and it was undergoing major renovations anyways. We stopped in the rain just long enough to snap a few pictures, and then used our prime tourist location to scope out some gifts and postcards. We needed to take up time before heading back to the National Museum. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S FREE SATURDAY NIGHTS AFTER THREE.

10423890_10205665011409180_1842329071756041011_nWe are the masters of “free is in the budget,” and this trip was no exception. We climbed all those freaking stairs again to get in to see a bunch of art for free. Which was great, because we all agreed we wouldn’t have wanted to pay for it. We all had this really disgusting moment where we went “You know, I’ve seen better.” Yes, only after this semester can I say that while looking at prime pieces of medieval and romantic art. No big deal.

After that, it was time for tapas. SO MUCH TAPAS. I wish this would catch on a little bit more in the US, because guys this is the best way to eat. Why have one thing when you can have seven for cheaper? After that, it was another early night for us.

The next day was basically more running around until we could get into another museum 10438593_10205665027329578_157594326294214546_nfor free (more on that later). We did some more shopping, stopped by the Joan Miro park to see some questionable art, found a fantastic candy shop called Happy Pills and discovered a few more cathedrals. What was worth all this wait?

GETTING INTO THE MUSEO PICASSO FOR FREE.

10392449_10205665022449456_640497025377947006_nThat’s right, ladies and gentlemen, the Museo Picasso is free after three on Sundays and we took full advantage of it. This is one museum we would have been willing to pay for, but THANK YOU BARCELONA FOR BEING AWESOME. So many of his most famous works are in that collection, and it was absolutely amazing. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take pictures so here’s a Picasso (the singular Picasso) from the National Museum.

It was pouring when we left the museum and nowhere close to dinner on the Spanish10405631_10205665071810690_5939610382439288666_n timetable, so we found a bar close by and tried out some real Spanish margaritas and mojitos. I had a couple of fantastic strawberry margaritas. As far as I can tell, their recipe is 98% tequila and 2% anything else.

What was for dinner you ask? MORE TAPAS OF COURSE.

Then, early the next morning, that was it. Back to London and all the homework we didn’t do but should have done.

I can’t believe that the next time I get on a plane, it will be to the States. I can’t believe how soon that is. I just … can’t. This semester I’ve been to five countries outside of England, and visited Stratford-Upon-Avon and Cardiff besides just LIVING in LONDON. Maybe in a few posts I’ll be able to process that all, but for now? I have 11 days left and I have to make them count.

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