What can be created from this different moments:
“somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond” by e.e. cummings
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing (i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
When I attended the Arts High School for Poetry during my junior year of high school, my teacher gave us an unusual assignment: write a love poem without using the word love. He then proceeded to read us “somewhere i have never travelled” by e.e. cummings, which to this day I believe is the most beautiful love poem written without the word love. Towards the end of the Arts High School program, we had to choose one poem to memorize and recite in front of the class as part of the final assessment. My instructor chose to memorize “somewhere i have never travelled” and I memorized it as well, not expecting to double up with anyone. My instructor said, “this just goes to show how much poetry can unite people who previously did not know each other. We obviously both feel a strong connection to this poem even though we are a generation apart.” My instructor recited the poem and then invited me to recite it after him, and as I went back to my seat I imagined what it would be like to have the entire class recite this love-without-love poem.
“Litany” by Billy Collins
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.
My first exposure to “Litany” by Billy Collins was in Evie Shockley’s Principles of Literary Study: Poetry course. She assigned us this poem to read along with this video to watch:
I had seen Billy Collins perform live twice, but he never read “Litany” during his showcases. When Evie Shockley read it in class, she was able to emulate the same kind of energy Billy Collins has when he reads any of his poems–it was very vibrant and youthful, funny yet still having some serious merit to it. When I asked several people to read this poem, it seemed like they were unsure of the poem–if it was supposed to be more light-hearted or more serious. However, everyone at the end of the reading was smiling. This poem reading of various voices seemed to be the most in-sync out of all the ones I recorded, perhaps showing how universal Billy Collins’ poetry can be.
The first time I encountered Audre Lorde’s “Who Said It Was Simple” was in my Women, Culture, and Society class this semester. Being that this class was my fourth women’s studies class at Rutgers, I went into the class thinking we would go over the same topics of educational, economic, and social equality in a more thorough manner. One of the first readings we had to do in the class was called “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” by Audre Lorde, in which she speaks about how no aspect of a person–be it age, race, class, or sex–can be separated from the other qualities they have since collectively they define what makes a person unique. In her piece, Lorde calls on her readers to appreciate the differences all women have and celebrate them in order to unify women everywhere. “Who Said It Was Simple” was a poem that discussed similar themes.
Reciting this poem with 60 other people in the room made me realize the intensity of having bodies next to you doing the same things. It is a kind of intensity that only comes about from being in person that cannot be replicated by technology. Though I had several different people read the poem and recorded the reading, I did not tell them to read it at a certain pace nor did I tell them when to take a breath or pause at any particular point of the poem. I just had them read it the way it was presented trying to see if every person would be able to read the poem the same way. This recreation felt nothing like the intensity of my Women, Culture, and Society classroom, but it felt cool to see how many different interpretations and intonations could be placed on one poem.
My entire life, I have had very powerful experiences with others through poetry. Three very distinct moments stick out in my mind: memorizing “somewhere i had never travelled” by e.e. cummings for Arts High School, reading “Who Said It was Simple” by Audre Lorde with my entire Women, Culture, and Society lecture, and listening to ”Litany” by Billy Collins in one of my first college English classes. The first time I interacted with each of these poems elicited a response from myself which I did not expect.
With a mix of both visual representations and audio files layered over each other, I will try to recreate these moments for the viewers and listeners and let them know of their significance to me as a writer. I want to record different people reading different poems each and then layer their separate audio tracks for the same poem to reiterate the idea of unity and universality I feel poetry really conveys. These people will most likely not know each other or will only know each other in passing, but for the moment their voices align with the same words, they are connected in a shared art.
What I think is most intriguing about being a poet is that you have the ability to put words in an order they have not yet been in and claim that order as your own original work. The possibilities are limitless. For this project, I will be exercising this ability in two ways: I will recreate the experience of reading poems out loud through the different people reading these different poems and I will then cut audio from the different poems and create an entirely new piece from it.
In this project blog, I will recount my first-time experiences with the following poems: “Who Said It Was Simple” by Audre Lorde, “Litany” by Billy Collins, and “somewhere i have never travelled” by e.e. cummings.