To be read aloud tonight as part of Odessa College's F.E.A.R. Festival at the Globe Theatre in Odessa, TX.
Hi all. I want to introduce you to a curious sort of poem. The poet and classicist Anne Carson has these poems she calls “Short Talks.” They’re really funny because we use short talks all the time—short talks when coaching, short talks when apologizing, short talks when remembering. She goes another direction. Can a short talk be a moment full of wonder? Here’s one of her poems–not sure if I rendered it correctly--“Short Talk on Orchids:”
Short Talk on Orchids Anne Carson We live by tunneling for we are people buried alive. To me, the tunnels you make will
seem strangely aimless, uprooted orchids. But the fragrance is undying. A Little Boy
has run away from Amherst a few Days ago, writes Emily Dickinson in a letter of 1883,
and when asked where he was going replied, Vermont or Asia.
Carson starts with a horror: “we are people buried alive.” Then she unravels that horror. We’re tunneling; the tunnels are like orchids, the tunnels have an everlasting fragrance. If you do something out of sheer frustration, it could be sublime.
I believe she’s opened the door for a powerful genre. We need short talks. We need to take an idea about who we are or how we live and push it a less-than-usual direction. Like a longer talk, a line or two has to try to be especially memorable. So here’s an attempt at a short talk on fear:
Short Talk on Fear
There may be nothing to fear but fear itself, but there is an awful lot of fear. Fear spreads procedurally, like the endless spinoffs of Law and Order, CSI, NCIS. It creates its own space. You enter a room. All is dark except for the glow of the TV, the room resounds with police yelling, and the people you know are snoring on the couch. There’s so much fear it’s a form of comfort. Once, you went outside and did things that weren’t smart. You jumped from playground equipment or tried to do parkour with a bicycle rack. There was fear, there was discomfort, and we grew.