Thursday, January 27, 2011

Redacted poetry is a message in a bottle

Imagine you have one book with you, a reasonably large one, with lots of words in it. It is your lifeline, because you are now in a place where all other means of getting in touch with people has been taken away from you. There is only this one book, and it speaks to you and your one chance of speaking to the world is through the words that make up the book.

So you compose your message in your head, and you mark words in the book, and you carefully cut them out one by one, knowing all the while that for every word you use up that will speak, there's another that will be lost on the reverse. This is the opportunity cost of 'writing' your message out.

But you do it anyway, because you must. At first your dispatches are voluble and profligate. Soon, you ration your words. As the pages become cut-outs the books speaks to you differently. It must be a classic because every time you read it, it has something new. And you get different things out of it.

The end of the book does not come, as one assumes, when the last page is turned. It comes when what remains are the unusable words. Everyone has a different list of these, but because this is the book you have and this is your list, the words that remain include 'anneal' and 'recombinant' and 'brise'. This is not to say that you do not love these words, or are not happy that somebody - the author of the book, for instance - found a use for them; just that you can't imagine what you could have to say that would include these and other such words.

But you learn these words because - after you have said all you have to say, after you have used up all the other words - these are all that are left you. Until other words come from the outside, until they can be recycled, the words you don't want or need are your companions through what you hope is only a temporary silence.


Speaking of redactions, Ron Palmer and Stephanie Young in Shampoo 38.


km said...

A terrifying concept, and very well-written.

//Vaguely reminiscent of Ionesco's plays...esp. "The Lesson". The thought that one may be reduced to talking in nonsensical phrases and non sequitur is just very scary. And hilarious.

Shweta said...

Very nice! We should have a redaction party; think how much fun!