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Category: poetry

Pinter’s gone (pause) He’s well out of it now (silence)

Although in our later years we had some disagreements, there was a long period where I read everything he wrote. Devoured it, like a starving man. Harold Pinter was a towering figure in the literature of our theater.

– pause –

The plays are very difficult to do well. Many of the works are an exercise in game theory, in wordless competition. They unfold at the level of everyday speech and a strange and dangerous undercurrent of action.

– silence –

It’s as though in his works, language reveals its potential as a strange and cruel weapon. The words spoken have multiple meanings and very sharp corners. But it shouldn’t be over-thought, it’s more like a game of catch with a hand grenade. Usually only one of the game’s participants knows when the explosion will occur.

– pause –

Pinter’s writing was part of what attracted me to theater in the first place. The plays engaged the human situation at a fundamental level with energy and ferocity. Looking back, I now understand how rare a playwright he was. And as time passes, his work only grows in my estimation. His passing, and the time of year, brings to mind Auden’s poem in memory of Yeats. “The death of the poet was kept from his poems.”

In Memory of W.B. Yeats
by WH Auden

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

One Comment

Voice as Writing: Writing as Voice

Swans reflecting Elephants

There’s a liquidity of meaning at work in Google’s Voice Search. While we think of it as computers understanding speech, it’s really nothing of the kind. The kind of talking that we do when we make sounds that a computer can understand is more like writing– perhaps even like typing words. Voice becomes writing in this context.

When we use SMS, IM or Twitter writing becomes voice. We speak through marks that we make on a screen through a keyboard. We call it writing, but it’s actually a form of speech. Think about how sign language operates– it’s speaking with the hands, with the gesture.

Voice becomes writing, writing becomes voice. But the poles are not solid, meaning moves back and forth, like Dali’s paranoic critical method. Swans reflect elephants, elephants reflect swans– a most interesting form of recursion.

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We Are The Hollow Men

Imagining the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Mistah Kurtz— He dead.

The Hollow Men
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)

A penny for the Old Guy

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw.  Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us–if at all–not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

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A Poetry Animation: Anna Livia Plurabelle

…a chattering dialogue across the river by two washerwomen who as night falls become a tree and a stone. The river is named Anna Liffey. 

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