Sunday, September 14, 2003

Notes on Professional Eavesdropping 

Notes on Professional Eavesdropping:
Noontime Chat on Language 9/14/03
Tracie Morris, Shelley Hirsch, David Greenberger

What struck me about this conversation between a panel of Language Artists was the idea of language as physical. The idea of language as physical, visceral, textural, tactile, sensual, delicious was a running current throughout this conversation. Is language a sense? All three artists spoke of using their body to sense the meaning of words, to tap into the feeling we are given when a specific word is spoken. Another exciting concept is that poetry, the sound of language can subvert or rather surpass its many vivisections into foreign tongues after the fall of Babel and be understood regardless of what form it takes and what your proper native tongue is. So that one can dig the meaning behind the words of an African poet even though the listener speaks only English. This leads right back to the idea that poetry can be/is physical, and intuitive.

For the past few days, I have been inundated and devouring media that leaves me drugged w/ a sense of hopelessness. I have secretly been carrying this around with me for days and have had a slew of panicked nightmares, but have shared it w/no one while this beast of a conscious gnaws and gestates somewhere w/in me. Thursday, I read about the presence of racist neo-nazi skinheads here in Portland once overt now possibly latent and how a trio of them beat an Ethiopian father’s head in w/ a baseball bat some 10 years ago. I read that two of the three involved are out of prison. I begin to feel nauseous. I read President Bush justify the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi and American people as having a purpose. What possible purpose could this ever have? I open my mail and read a mass mailing from Amnesty International that gives specific details about the torture of political prisoners. I go to work as a case manager for homeless and runaway kids where I talk with a 16 year old child with a three year old and a one year old child she seems to feel little responsibility for.
Mostly, I am a cynical optimist, but every once in a while, the pain of others gets to me. Sometimes I get hopeless. My poetry seems so small a gesture. The last place I expected to receive some sort of solvent to mix w/ my gestating thoughts of the past days and nights was in a panel discussion on language. What I unexpectedly received from today’s talk was that through our lives as artists, writers, and philosophers we can eavesdrop on the world, on our fellow human beings. We can soak up these eavesdroppings with our physical bodies and respond through our art. We can, with our art, transcend utilitarian language and provide our audiences with an artillery of new designs for the human culture. The audience can then, in turn, take what thoughts they receive from art and begin to apply it to their daily lives. And it all begins with a little eavesdropping.

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