Sunday, September 20, 2009

Losing my Voice

Voice. I lost mine this week.

I loved losing it.

Granted, I felt drab since I had to nod and smile as if I possessed no thought other than agreement. My dog indulged her scatological cravings since I couldn’t yell for her to not eat whatever deadness she found in the yard. And the flu-snot that caused the voicelessness of course created a general feeling of grodiness.

But I liked the limitation of losing my voice. I liked how I had to respond to the world a bit differently: less interaction; more smiles; phone off.  Overall, a return to the internal.

I began rereading Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay”—that thirty-eight page poem that consumes the worlds of the Bront√ęs, a breakup, depression, parent-child relationships—and then redelivers all these worlds as one.  How to keep a long poem hinged together and engaging is difficult—and Carson uses a few different techniques such as the triadic stanza and section breaks to do so. On this reading, I found the flat voice held it all together, too. I know some readers complain about this flatness in some of her lines—and the introduction of the book even addresses that issue by saying that she can seem “unpoetic.”  The flatness in this poem works because it lends a tonal quality of isolation and depression that reinforces the subject of the poem. And she often follows up the flatness with quick transitions to another space: be it the interior to the exterior or a physical space such as from the moors to the kitchen. What I mean by that is one result of flatness is clarity, so when a jolting transition happens, it's easy to follow. Here is a short example where the speaker is visiting her mother and her mother is prattling on.  The transitions are quick between what the mother is saying and what the speaker is thinking, but since Carson delivers all of this in such a clear, flat voice, we can follow it. And if you haven’t had a chance to read this entire poem, you can find it in Carson's book Glass, Irony, and God published by New Directions Books.

Excerpt from "The Glass Essay" by Anne Carson:

“Mice in the teatowel drawer again.

Little pellets. Chew off

The corners of the napkins, if they knew

What paper napkins cost nowadays.

Rain tonight.


Rain tomorrow.

That volcano in the Philippines at it again. What’s her name

Anderson died no not Shirley


The opera singer. Negress.


Not eating your garnish, you don’t like pimento?”

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