Autobiographical

My full-length book, Where We Think It Should Go, can be yours via Octopus Books, Small Press Distribution, or Amazon. We better celebrate these hard copies while we can. When I'm not writing poetry, I teach amazing young people who are blind. I believe in a healthier future.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

It is the human that is the alien

It is the human that is the alien,
The human that has no cousin in the moon.

It is the human that demands his speech
From beasts or from the incommunicable mass.

-from Wallace Stevens, "Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit"


This reminds me of Josh telling me that in The Pervert's Guide to Cinema Slavoj Zizek says language is alien to us. We shove it in our youngsters' ears, otherwise it wouldn't be in their throats. And if you know people who are naturally nonverbal, you get to see that language is not the only way to be human. Which is kind of insane after you spend years writing and reading poetry. One of my nonverbal students leaned over and puked on the floor next to his desk and then he said "Health Services," two words I have never heard him say. He prefers not to talk. Language is purely functional for him. He can express his needs. He can "play" with one meaningless phrase, like the name of a radio station, repeating it for months without making any syntactical substitutions or changing intonation. Through him I've learned there is thinking without thought. There's spatial thinking, desire thinking, movement planning...My thinking of how to relate to one who doesn't have language is observational, experimental, repetitive, at its best I guess it's wordless. Stevens poem hopes that god is nonverbal and that he cannot hear us. Our speech makes us alien. It's great to be alien sometimes. Sometimes we can be our animal selves silent with the natural world. But once we're infected with speech, we can't get rid of it. We could try to take it from our children. I don't think we should.

Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit


If there must be a god in the house, must be,
Saying things in the rooms and on the stair,

Let him move as the sunlight moves on the floor,
Or moonlight, silently, as Plato’s ghost

Or Aristotle’s skeleton. Let him hang out
His stars on the wall. He must dwell quietly.

He must be incapable of speaking, closed,
as those are: as light, for all its motion, is,

As color, even the closest to us, is;
As shapes, though they portend us, are.

It is the human that is the alien,
The human that has no cousin in the moon.

It is the human that demands his speech
From beasts or from the incommunicable mass.

If there must be a god in the house, let him be one
That will not hear us when we speak: a coolness,

A vermilioned nothingness, any stick of the mass
Of which we are too distantly a part.

3 comments:

Andrea said...

This is interesting, Claire. I like the idea of "God" being non-verbal.

Let us go to Mexico together.

Claire said...

hey andrea, yes. come to mexico!

Bob said...

hello, Claire...

great poem! do you think you could record it for my audio poetry show, i-outlaw (http://i-outlaw.blogspot.com/)?

let me know! bmarcacci AT gmail.com

bob marcacci