Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Soundscapes of Our Creation

Poem of the Day:
Charles O. Hartman's "Racket"
The Long View

Excerpt from "Racket"

No one blind could play squash, despite Tommy. Yet a deaf
squash player labors under an unappreciated disadvantage. The
player who turns to watch how her opponent shoots may get a
face sufficiently full of squash ball (average speed in tournament
play, 135 m.p.h.). Instead, a good player hears how hard the
other's racquet hit the ball, and whether square in the sweet spot
or, perhaps, deceptively hard off a bit of the racquet's frame.
None of this clearly communicates direction, but may dictate
whether she needs a quick run to the front court or a judicious
retreat toward the back wall.

Hartman's prose poem is decidedly unconventional; he begins with what seems to be a sportscaster's analysis but then again, not quite. He seems much more attentive than a sportscaster, perhaps a sportscaster turned poet or vice versa.

Eventually he makes this scene, the scene of the deaf squash player, into a photograph (titled, nonetheless, and therefore recognized as a work of art) making us, the reader, deaf as well. It is a photograph of a squash game -- "Blow Up ends with a tennis match the photographer watches/intently, as we watch his face" (lines 11-12) -- and to it, Hartman argues, we desire to and will add sound. He writes, "our ears...receive the exchanged shots in fact by two mimes/with imaginary racquets and an imaginary ball" (lines 13-14). In finishing the poem Hartman's title, "Racket," gains its full merit and humorous tone.

So, to what else do we, as viewers (eye-users) add sound?

Today was the World Cup match between the US and Algeria; if the US had tied or lost it is most likely that we would not have moved on to the second round of play. When we did indeed win, scoring the one and only goal in the final minutes of add-on play, my co-worker, of whom I today learned is an avid soccer fan, screamed and rejoiced...are these the right verbs?

I've told this story various times today. Each time my co-worker's sounds of exultation reach a higher pitch; towards the end of the day they began to rattle and shake the office windows. To her I've added sound and volume. I understand the excitement she felt. The music that accompanies the portrait of her celebration in my mind needs to be cranked up; louder, louder.

These are the sounds we add; then, must we all, to some degree, be deaf?

A Poem A Day Audrey


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