30/12/2022 0 Comments
On reading poetry on a train
I travelled by train from Auckland to Wellington and a journey that would have taken two hours on the high speed trains they have in Japan or four hours on a TGV in France took twelve hours, most of which I spent reading. Perhaps it was in one of the books I was reading on the train, Topeka by Ben Lerner, that there was a description of a young man travelling with a backpack full of a few essential items including a book of poetry. I was not reading poetry on the train, I was reading fiction, because I was reading to take myself out of the present moment of travelling into a world in which, unlike while you are travelling, there is narrative, things are continuing to happen they way they aren't happening to someone just sitting on a train for hours. If fiction takes you out of the world you are in, or out of your own experience, poetry seems to me to have a different kind of effect, if anything making you, while you read it, even more present in your own reality, even as you are transformed by the voice of the poet. Talking to friends recently about lyric scale, I found I could no longer really back my own claim about lyric scale as somehow answering the climate crisis's problem of scale - having the opposite qualities in terms of scale isn't any kind of intervention or answer. Perhaps the different kind of reading experience that poetry offers, in comparison to fiction, is also, if not an answer to crisis, valuable in the way it insists on presence - on the present tense of the moment, and on the presence of the person reading, even as it seems to bring into the present words written at some other time?
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