Technological Filters for Our Lungs

I found This Connection of Everyone with Lungs utterly fascinating, mainly because it made me think about the kinds of technological filters that keep us from possibly engaging with one another on a daily basis.  One of the key themes I noticed in the poem is how the narrator is constantly, yet willingly it would seem, bombarded with imagery from the internet, news, and radio, and how this imagery creeps into, and very often pervades her daily interactions with other people.   As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say I would be hard-pressed to find too many instances in the poem where people interacted with each other without a technological filter (or the byproducts of these technological filters) interfering with or straining the relationship somehow.  For instance, does the narrator ever go to the beach and connect with someone else without a memory of a news broadcast spoiling what should be a purely human interaction?  So for me, technological filters were basically adding distances to the relationships that the narrator was struggling to make.

These distances are apparent even when she seems to be lauding the beauty of her beloveds: “When I speak of your thighs and their long muscles of smooth-\ness, I speak of yours cells and I speak of the British Embassy \ being closed in Kenya”.  When she speaks of their cheeks: “I speak of the \ NASA launch and the child Net safety law and the Native Linux \ pSeries Server.”  I’m not trying to read too much into the multi-layered metaphor of the narrator’s beloveds, but whichever metaphor you pick, it appears she’s trying to describe someone she wants to be close to through a technological filter–various reports she’s seen on the news and possibly advertisements for the mainframes that power the Internet.  However, is a Linux Server the first thing that comes to mind when we think about “someone I want to get close to?”  There are plenty of moments like these that crop up where the internet, news, what have you, seems to obstruct the human connections in the poem. 

Yet Spahr’s poem is not without it’s moments of optimism, where people do seem to connect momentarily by harnessing technology; however, I felt they were few and far between.  One good instance is when the narrator and her friends turn the tables on these filters to organize protests: “We talked on the phone about this glimmer / We read each other’s reports. / We said optimistic things”  and “Those who broke up suddenly discovered new lovers and their / new sensualities in this glimmer despite all the burning.”  Yet when she downloads images of protestors in other parts of the world, keep in mind that she’s not actually at the protest, but seems to be looking at a still frame through a monitor when she says: “I imagine the bodies of friends in the crowds of various cities, feel \ moments of connection with the mass as I imagine it down to \ individuals”.  The connotation I got from the language was that she needed to imagine her own friends inside a picture of some other city being displayed on her monitor, in order to feel “moments of connection” with the people who actually lived there.  So even though the moment is optimistic, there are abstracted layers she needs to work through (imagining a mental picture of another picture that is framed within a larger one) in order to feel a connection and bridge the gap. 

This is really the aspect of Spahr’s poetry that delighted me.  How maybe our consciousness (or cognition maybe–I’m not sure which) is shifting into global awareness fueled by technology, inundating us with information, maybe at the expense of what used to be “personal” relationships?  I’m not trying to say anything good or bad about this shift, other than I think Spahr’s poetry captures it somehow and that it keeps my synapses sparking.

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1 Response to Technological Filters for Our Lungs

  1. AVZ says:

    Great post. We only briefly discussed the inclusion of technology in the poem (noting how interesting it is that Whitman’s catalogs provide an excellent model for the bombardment of info the internet offers) but this really clarifies and adds to that discussion.

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