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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Perusing Poetics: Sadly, You Didn’t Get Murdered Like You Wanted

This blog is going to be a combination of that title, the Futurist Movement and my trip to Italy last semester. (Specifically, Venice. Read more about that here.) How, you might ask? Hang on to your hat!

First, our poetical beginnings. This week in class we were reading about the Futurists and their CRAZY AS HELL movement of art. If you want to know how crazy, go ahead and look up the Manifesto as written by F.T. Marinetti. That’s what I’ll be quoting from.

These guys had a lot of crazy, cool, and crazy-cool ideas kicking around. Among the stranger ones was their desire to destroy “museums, libraries, [and] academies of every kind” (22). This is not to mention “moralism, feminism, [and] every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice”, but that’s another blog post for another time (22).

I want to focus on the word “museums” here, but first a little bit of context. One, this manifesto was written in 1909. These young men were glorifying war and violence, among other things, but they probably had no idea about what was coming around the corner for all of Europe. Second point of interest–and where I got my blog post title from–was that they were so into new ideas that they hoped that “other, younger and stronger men” would come around when they were forty or so and “hurtle to kill” them so as to become their “successors” (23).

So there’s your picture. Young, frenzied men in 1909 with a lot of wild ideas that actually go on to have a lot of impact on the world. They want to knock down every old edifice that remains in the world and make it new. They look forward to being destroyed by their successors.

It’s funny what they got and what they didn’t. A lot of their thinkers would be killed in the war that was to come, but not in the way that they wanted. A lot of old things would be destroyed and made new after the war, for better or for worse. Successors would arise and carry on some of their ideas, but not in the way they would have preferred if they all lived.

How can I say that? Well, when I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, their special exhibition was on Futurist art. Some of the most famous pieces of their movement were there.

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In a museum.

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Photo credit: Samantha Guter

On display.

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Photo credit: Samantha Guter

Sure, The Peggy Guggenheim is a modern art museum. There are no dusty Greek or Roman pieces there, but rather Dali, Pollock and Ernst. Yet, as far as the Futurists were concerned, anything past was old. Even their work, now, is “old” because it isn’t now. Hanging that art there, exhibiting it like that … all those artists were probably turning over in their graves.

It’s just fascinating how the world picks and chooses what it wants to remember about movements and ideas and people. There are plenty of Futurist ideals that many artists still carry, like themes of destroying the old or violence in art, but this one they forgot. The Futurists were murdered, all right, but the radical movement they hoped would continue on after them did not–or it would not be the pieces of Marinetti’s contemporaries on the walls, but rather those young, vicious murderers for which they prayed. Now the only violence they can enact is the one which Marienetti lambasted museums for containing: where “absurd abattoirs of painters and sculptors ferociously [slaughter] each other with colour-blows and line-blows, the length of the fought-over walls!” (22).

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.

Falling for Italy Part 3: Venturing in Venice

Alright. Here we are. The final part.

IMG_1525You know, honestly, I don’t have a lot to say we did. That’s not to say that we didn’t do anything, just that Venice doesn’t have as much STUFF to do as, say, Rome. That’s okay, though, because it was so beautiful it was enough of an adventure just walking around.

Of course, we did do the requisite tourist things, IMG_1537like San Marco’s. This is basically a big square by the water with the biggest “tourist attractions,” which are a church, a tower and an astrological clock. You basically stand in the middle and turn on your heel and BAM you’ve seen it all. Well, I mean, you can go in–and the church is beautiful oh my god–but it’s not enough for days and days, like Rome.

IMG_1548Another thing you can’t escape without is, of course, a gondola ride, which we also did. No, our gondolier did not sing, but that’s fine. It was meditative to ride through the canals. I got to sit in the front of the boat and just watch us move forward. It was weird to wave up at the people on the bridges, taking touristy pictures of us like we’d be taken earlier in the day.

There are, of course, the important Venice bridges, but IMG_1554honestly I didn’t take much note of them. Like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, they’ve just been taken over by sellers and tourists and aren’t much fun. I’m not even sure I have any real pictures of them. I’ll just hand you another picture of gorgeous Venice.

IMG_1593One of the things we did go and see was the Peggy Guggenheim Museum right on the Grand Canal. It houses one of the best modern art collections I’ve ever seen. Picasso, Ernst, Pollock and more are just right there, hanging out, in a space that continues to remind you it also used to be Peggy Guggenheim’s house. (She’s actually buried outside in the sculpture garden.) Along with the wine tour, it might have been one of my favorite things that we did!

Honestly, I don’t know what else I could day about the

The scarf is mine from Florence. Not the canal.

The scarf is mine from Florence. Not the canal.

individual places. Those are the highlights of the things we did, the material things. I got a lot of presents for people and even grabbed a couple of things for myself.

10730847_10152785446978631_3772624663905662044_nI titled these blog posts “Falling for Italy” because, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to take this trip. I wasn’t opposed to Italy, of course, but I wasn’t as drawn to it as some of the other people I traveled with. I can say with confidence that Italy won me over, heart and soul. I do wish I had been able to actually communicate, but besides the language barrier it was a gorgeous, lovely place to take a vacation in and I enjoyed every single second of it. I’ve seen things that I never imagined I would, stood next to things I’ve only seen in textbooks and learned a bit about myself along the way. What more could you ask for, really?

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Falling for Italy Part 2: Flying through Florence

Back for round two, finally!

You know, Florence was the city that I expected the least of. I realized that I had IMG_1428absolutely no idea what was IN Florence except for great food and ended up Googling a Time Out article to tell myself. As it turns out, Florence is a great place to be if you like food AND art. And boy does my group like art.

IMG_1435One of the first galleries that we went to was the Uffizi Gallery. We went in having no expectations except for FLORENCE ART and it ended up totally worth it. Why? Because we turned the corner into one room and BAM The Birth of Venus was just RIGHT THERE. Casually. Like no big deal. It was amazing. We had no idea just how many pieces straight from art history textbooks were there. We were literally tired of art by the end.

We did of course hit up the tourist-must-dos. I have a picture of the Duomo up there, and IMG_1466then we also wandered over the Ponte Vecchio a couple of times. Honestly, both areas were both so touristy we weren’t there long.

IMG_1491One of the best things we did (possibly in the whole trip) was go on a wine tour up in Chianti. We stopped by the town of Greve and then went to two little wineries and tried a LOT of wine. Just the bus ride to and from these places were picture worthy, but looking out over the grape fields was also amazing. The mist was setting in and the sun was going down and UGH. It was like a postcard. We also just had a lot of fun as a whole–and came back with a lot of wine that was cheap and good. (Greve also had the best gelato we would have all trip.)

The one thing that we said we were going to do in Florence from the beginning was go to IMG_1517the Galleria d’ell Academia and see Michelangelo’s David. Quite frankly, I wasn’t as excited about that as some other people. I mean, he’s just a nude dude, right? But standing up close to him … it was amazing. Just the hand. The detailing of the veins in the hand. HOW is someone that talented? HOW? As I said before, there is nothing that can prepare you for seeing a bunch of things up close, whether it’s the Coliseum or David or anything in between.

Did you miss my recap of part 1 in Rome? Here’s the link! Stay tuned for the final part about Venice!

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Falling for Italy Part 1: Running in Rome

IMG_1316Better late than never, I’m writing about fall break in Italy! I’m doing this in a three part series, because there was SO MUCH THAT HAPPENED, starting at the beginning, strangely enough. The beginning would be Rome, where we literally hit the ground running!

I don’t think a person can be prepared for how MUCH there is in Rome. IMG_1333There are people, there are ruins, there are just things everywhere. Our plan for Rome was literally taking one of those tourist maps and jumping from place to place as far as we could go.

10689857_10152770759278631_2372305428764677970_nOne thing about not being prepared was making a faux paus on our very first day. We happened upon a church that we wanted to go in, but we were not dressed up to the dress code. (You could see my shoulders, and my dress did not cover my knees. [It was over 80. How anyone in there was wearing clothes I don’t know.]) A very angry church attendant told us that “this was a church, not a garden” but apparently this happens so much that these white mesh scarves are supplied so you can properly cover up.

Eventually, our wanders led us to a destination we had actually planned: The Coliseum. IMG_1350Honestly, I hadn’t expected to be wowed by it as much as I was. I certainly wasn’t expected for the sheer size, for one–I don’t think anyone ever can be. But there is also a certain majesty when you stare at it and realize how much work went into crafting just one small section. Looking down in the pit was also chilling, but it’s mediated a bit by the fact that the entire underbelly is now run by the cats of Rome.

IMG_1377Admission to the Coliseum also gets you into the Roman forum beside it, which is basically just a bunch of ruins in the same place. Like, I can’t explain to you how many. We were all so tired by the time we exited the Coliseum that we didn’t have time to do it properly, but boy did we stare. ROME HAS SO MUCH STUFF. Anyways…

On the second day, we went out to Vatican City.IMG_1388 We were lucky enough to stand there while the Pope came to his window and blessed the crowd. I didn’t understand a word of it because it was in Italian, but it was one of those times where understanding at the sentence level wasn’t important. I’m not religious, but I respect this Pope immensely and I was honored to be in his presence.

IMG_1404We couldn’t do any of the museums or anything because it was Sunday, so we wandered back around to places like the Piazza Navona and then, of course, the Pantheon. Again, just walking was amazing. Rome seems to take it’s amazing amount of history for granted, in a way. We ended up lost a little bit towards the end, and wandered past the house of the Italian President and the sadly closed Trevi Fountain.

On our last day, we went back to Vatican City in order to do the museums. Read: We IMG_1414wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. However, this experience was nothing like what we had had the day before. In the museums, they pack people in like sardines and there is a souvenir stand at every corner. In the Chapel itself, there is a speaker specifically to say “SHH” to all the disrespectful tourists packed in closer than the Central line at rush hour. Don’t get me wrong, it was all beautiful and I’m glad I went, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

We did so much stuff in Rome that I could barely contain it in one blog post, but there are the highlights! Stay tuned for next time when I talk about Florence!

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