Thursday, March 26, 2009

other writing of the cultural divide

i suppose i'd confess to my being a luddite in this brave new world. yes, i am online, have a blog, publish mostly in online zines, and quite simply love my laptop and the infoweb, but i don't have a cell phone, or mobile phone if you will. i don't have an ipod either. i have cds, those flimsy discs of plastic that were meant to last a lifetime only to be made near obsolescent by digital technology.

but it's the culture of the cell phone that has me puzzled. no matter the age or the sex or the tax bracket of the individual it appears to my eyes that every human being on the planet, or at least in my purview, are constantly on the phone. constantly. the public pose on the street, in the market, or even at the movies, is that of a person bent forward slightly with their device in hand or to their ear. the pose looks almost penitent. what subjects might these people be discussing, i might ask, are so important that these devices are in constant use. i imagine those who are hooked to their cell phones have them by their side every minute of their day, and when they wake in the morning the first thing they do is pick up their phones and either dial, punch out a message with very tiny keys, or check for messages received.

don't call me a tecnhophobe, i protest. i think i might understand the allure of cell phones. we are social creatures and need the interaction of our fellow human beings in order to feel like we belong. our social tendencies go deeper than that of course. what is language but a social construct that is absolutely necessary to our lives. that's why i think poetry is the ultimate art. not because i'm a poet, or my friends are poets, or because i love reading poetry, but because language is what makes us homo sapien sapiens. without words we would die as a species. make no mistake about that, we need to communicate and express and expand our consciousness thru grammar. poetry is that expression taken to the first intensity. if you think most people can do without poetry than consider why it is that people will quote song lyrics, which are a form of popular poetry, when the need for comfort and understanding arise. in the past five years i've been to at least two wakes where the speakers quote song lyrics in their eulogies as poetry. in other words, we need poetry. we need language. we need writing.

which makes me wonder if texting can become another form of poetry. certainly it must follow grammar and syntax rules, otherwise it would be meaningless. i don't text and don't have any desire to learn but that doesn't mean that it couldn't also be another form of writing, one that could be taken seriously as not simply communication but perhaps also as an art? i'm wondering aloud. another thing about poetry and literacy on the web is that the kind of writing i'm interested in, non-linear, fractured, collaged, vernacular and high-flown language, so closely resembles the kind of reading we do on the web what with hypertext and scrolling as information folds upon itself. as for cyber-reality poetry has already led the way as a tool for reading on the web. think about t.s. eliot's 'the wasteland' which is a kind of hypertext. or more recently the visual poetry of, say, david-baptiste chirot which is a collage of sources raised to a hyper-political plane. chirot is prolific and publishes much of his work on the web, like most visual poets do, perhaps because the publishing platform is so agreeable for their works which are, to my eyes at least, made as a collected system of visual and textual information.

just a few stray thoughts on the subject. i suppose it would be easy for me to decry the use of cell phones, especially in public. my own personal preference is silence and solitude. when i'm away from the computer i want to be away from it. i don't want to take it with me everywhere i go. when i'm walking i want only the sound of my own breathing and the ambient noises from the streets. however, i'm fascinated by technology and when someone showed me his i-phone a few months ago i was agog because that little thing is something captain kirk, or scotty, would give his left nut to have. where that technology takes us and how will it be used by writers and readers is another matter to be hammered out by our daily living.


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