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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The Ireland Incident

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Sam, Madison, me and Sara!

Another weekend, another trip. This time, it was a girls weekend to Dublin, Ireland! Ireland is a place that I’ve wanted to go for a long time, so I was super excited. Especially because I got to go with all my ladies.

The night before we went, we got maybe 5 IMG_1194hours of sleep because of school and how early our flight left. When we arrived, it was pouring buckets–welcome to Ireland! Because of that, we kind of laid low, checking out Trinity College and some other local sites. We checked into our hostel and our room that had 42 beds in it. That was an experience I can say I probably don’t want to have again. A mini pub crawl began that night, but I got really sick so I didn’t stay for most of it. (Get ready, this is going to come back later.)

IMG_1216The next day, however, was absolutely spectacular. We went out to Glendalough National Park (glen-da-lock, ladies and gents) and had the most perfect day for it. We explored some monastic ruins, ran into some deer, hiked around and played in a waterfall. It was just gorgeous and perfect and wonderful.

That night, however, was not so much. At 2AM I awoke with serious pain in my right ear. I tried to go back to sleep, not wanting to bother anyone at 2 freaking AM, but it didn’t last long. 4AM rolled around and I was crying in the fetal position. Poor Sam. I had to wake her up and beg for Advil, which she didn’t have, and then curl into a ball and ask if maybe we could go to the ER.

I don’t know if you know this (I hope you don’t) but 4:30AM on a Sunday morning is a very strange time to go to the ER. Most of all the drunken messes have been and gone, and the only people left are a random conglomeration of people with varying degrees of problems. Also, I think a few homeless people trying to spend the night out of the cold and being shooed by the security team who is very done with their jobs at this point. However, I got myself some strong painkillers and antibiotics and went back to sleep fairly quickly. (I had to take midterms on these drugs. They are very strong.)

IMG_1261The next day, we slept a lot. Sara left that morning for her internship, so it was down to Madison, Sam and their friend Kat. We spent the rest of that day roaming Dublin Castle and looking at the outsides of St. Patrick’s and Christ Church, then hid from the threatening rain in a Peacock Green cafe. Later on we explored an Irish Oktoberfest, which for this person of very German descent was absolutely hilarious.

Madison left Monday morning, leaving Sam and I with a full day to wander. We’d basically

Giant's Causeway at the National Leprechaun Museum!

Giant’s Causeway at the National Leprechaun Museum!

exhausted the city by then, though. We went to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, the National Gallery and the National Leprechaun Museum in our museum crawl. We wanted to see some others, but they were closed (ON MONDAY WHY?). We actually got to the airport really early for our then hourish delayed flight until we finally rolled into our beds at 2:30AM.

Honestly, Dublin was really underwhelming. Compared to London, it’s a very small city with not a lot of (free) things to do. I would have gladly paid for some of the experiences (and did) but really I just wanted to be anywhere but the city. You can really do all the highlights in a day or two. I certainly want to go back to Ireland, but I never want to see a city. I want to hit all the sites outside, like the Hill of Tara and Trim or the Giant’s Causeway. Even the tourist offices in Dublin know that most of the good times happen outside the city, so there are plenty of day trips from there to all these places. If you want to do Ireland, take full advantage of that. Just plan them ahead and don’t expect the city to propel your entire visit.

I’m off to Italy tomorrow for ten days, with a still plugged ear and a lack of antibiotics so this should be yet another adventure. Until I return!