Hope, Dread and the Powers of Ten

Olivia writes eloquently of the hope and optimism that persist against the undertow of despair and disconnection in Spahr’s This Connection.  I also try to read against the grain of that bleakness. But it is hard! (I do think I ended class on a rather depressing note–call it a case of the Tuesdays.)

This Connection yokes the idea of interconnectedness so tightly with complicity in wrongdoing (what happens on in our name) that I do struggle to return to that original, beautiful, romantic vision of connection with which she opens the book.  I think one of her goals is to present that stunning idea of connection with such clarity at first, and then test it over and again against the harsh realities of the world.  In this sense, she stages the failure–or at least attenuation–of her trope of connectedness.  Already in the first poem, the air we breath is filled with crushed glass and concrete from the twin towers; already at the beginning this connection is both “lovely and doomed.”

At the end of class, I was trying to get us to note those moments where loveliness returns–in love for the beloveds that others share as well, in political solidarity with others–but I get so weighed down by the way the wrongs of the world take over everything by the end of the poem: geography, bird song, the bed, language itself.  It seems so unrelenting.

If there is no pristine view from space where we can have broad, universal connection and no sense of conflict or complicity, perhaps the book encourages us to recognize our complicity even as we embrace connection with others–indeed, perhaps it suggests that we can’t have it any other way.  The abstract view from space explodes (literally) in the book, but Spahr’s drive to forge new, meaningful connections sustains in the face of catastrophe.  The romantic ideal remains, and emerges perhaps more powerfully after being so tested, so strained.

In other news, here’s that famous video–Powers of 10–that I think Spahr riffs on in the opening poem. I mentioned it in class. It show a simple Chicago picnic from 10 meters away, then zooms out to the far reaches of other galaxies, and then, before you know it, we’re back at the level of mitochondria.  It’s a bit old school in the days of google earth, but still quite cool —

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