Quoteables: "The Way We Learn to Look"

There's a wonderful conversation about poetry and political realities in the latest issue of Gulf Coast. The conversation begins with several poets discussing the Deep Water Horizon explosion and the soft language that was used to describe that accident:

Fred Marchant: The "innocence" of the word "spill" is a political construct or artifact. I don't yet have the exact word for what this event is, but it is more than a spill, is closer to a bleed and a wound, and is certainly representative of a deep violation of our compact with each other and our compact with life on the planet.
And then a little later, this from Patricia Smith:

Strange that I became a poet, since I was raised not to trust language or, for that matter, anything I was seeing. I was raised by a woman who was convinced that the moon landing was staged in an Arizona desert. Growing up on the west side of Chicago--the part of town everyone told you to stay away from--language was used not so much to communicate, but to keep us in our place. The "national insurance" my parents paid every week was nothing but a white, outstretched hand. Our "modern urban development" was a slum, plain and simple. I learned early that soft language almost always hid hard edges.

So I don't look at the pretty pictures, or even the murky shots of the underwater spew. I look beneath everything I hear. That's where I find the verbs and nouns that nobody wants to use.
--from "The Way We Learn to Look: A conversation with Nick Flynn, Brenda Hillman, Dorianne Laux, Fred Marchant, Laura Mullen, and Patricia Smith," Gulf Coast, Winter/Spring 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment