The Sore Throat, Aaron Kunin, the inevitable failure of concealing desires, crylaughing in gym class, disastrous phone messages, Swingers, and me.

I got a nice Powell’s review of The Sore Throat and Other Poems by Aaron Kunin in my inbox today and I think I’m going to have to pick it up. I’m surprised at myself lately–first Matthew Zapruder and now this Aaron Kunin guy–maybe I actually like contemporary poetry. Imagine that!

Or maybe I’ve always liked contemporary poetry but I’ve just never read it before because I’ve been biased by other people’s opinions of it. More than likely, I’ve been too busy reading novels and Romantic poetry, watching bad TV, drinking in bars, running on beaches, working and living, and occasionally sleeping to read contemporary poetry.

But no more. I am reading it now. Here’s part of what I read today:

The Sore Throat

I’m inventing a machine
for concealing my desire.
And I’m inventing another
machine for concealing the
machine. It’s a two-machine
system, and it sounded like
laughter. And I’m inventing
a machine for concealing
the sound. You, to me: “Why are
you concealing the beauty
of your machine?” Every machine
has more beauty than the last,
for everything whose purpose
is to conceal seems to change,
in the end, into a sign
of what it’s concealing. And
now the sound that once sounded
like laughter is so loud that
it seems more like sobbing or
laughter concealing sobbing.
All my inventing is a
complete disaster. It’s not
concealing my desire, it’s
talking about my desire
to conceal my desire, like
a voice on a message machine
that would say: “Hello. About
desire, I’d like to say a
word or two. It’s not your eyes,
it’s not the word you say, it’s
not your complaining voice that
I desire. All I desire
is your applause.” It’s hard not
to hear what the message is
saying, also it’s hard to
keep myself from inventing
another machine to keep
from hearing it. So invent
a machine for disinventing.
This will be the last machine
I ever invent, and its
purpose will just be to change
every machine into shit.
No more inventing (for me).
—What a shame. It once was a
wonder of a machine; now
it’s more like a disaster.
—I think he left a message . . .
—You’re wrong: he just left a mess.

Apparently Konin wrote all the poems in this 125 page collection using just 200 words. And the poems don’t even suck! (Well, the four I’ve read online so far don’t suck. To read more for yourself check out this poetry sampler.) But I really do like the poem above. And it’s an interesting idea this, “self-imposed semiotic limitation,” thing.

But that’s not really what interested me initially. Like always, I was more interested in my own reflection, or rather the identification of myself in an other (not to be confused with another). I know it sounds narcissistic, and it is. But I enjoy finding myself in art just as much as I enjoy losing myself there. (And the absolute best is when I can do both at the same time.)

But I’m getting off subject…

Question: How can I take this piece of art and somehow make it mine?
Answer: I know, I’ll make it all about me!

Any time I react to a poem on a personal level I get a little scared. It makes me think I’m turning into mush or maybe I’m being melodramatic and overemotional about something and I should watch myself before I start crying into my pillow or my long walks on the beach become just a little too introspective.

But then I give myself a break and I remember that part of the fun of a poem is the indulgence of it. (And part of reflecting outwardly on nature is that eventually it leads to reflecting inwardly on your own nature and soul and… Ooops, sorry slipping into the Romantic poetry thing again.) Moving on…

Lets start indulging shall we?

I like the poem above for a few random yet personal reasons. And since I’m so good at listing reasons for liking things lately (see the newspaper clippings post a few days back) I’ll go ahead and tell you them now:

  1. I invent things (bad stories, jokes, blogs) to conceal my desires.
  2. I inevitably end up revealing my desires while trying to conceal them. I think a lot of people do, but it’s nice to see this phenomenon of mine and the world’s communicated so clearly and concisely. (Yes, the world looks something like that to me too.)everything whose purpose
    is to conceal seems to change,
    in the end, into a sign
    of what it’s concealing

    All my inventing is a
    complete disaster. It’s not
    concealing my desire, it’s
    talking about my desire
    to conceal my desire

  3. I also have been known to conceal my sobs in laughter. This was an especially useful trick while in the sound that once sounded
    like laughter is so loud that
    it seems more like sobbing or
    laughter concealing sobbing.

    I remember one time in particular, when I was playing hockey in gym class, and Kevin Lawler sent the little plastic excuse for a “puck” sailing right into my face. And sailing isn’t really the right word. I don’t know what the right word is–careening, barreling, screaming, flying. Whatever the right word for it is, it moved with a great velocity and when it hit my face it hurt really bad. (My face not the puck, which I’m going to assume, being inanimate,  felt just fine.) I immediately dropped to the ground and I couldn’t help it–I started crying. But I didn’t want everyone in gym to know how much it hurt, or to think I was a total baby, so I started laughing. So, you know, it seemed like I didn’t care. Like I was laughing and crying at the same time. Because I wanted them to think I was so cool and carefree that getting hit in the face with a plastic puck was actually really funny to me. But really, I didn’t think it was funny–not at that moment anyways. Right then, it just really fucking hurt and it was embarrassing because I realized I had broken the number one rule of high school, and all school, and really the majority of life situations–never let them see you cry.

    Ha, so yes, the laughter was fake. And it probably didn’t even work. I’m sure everyone knew I was crying like a big damn baby.

    Hahahaawwwaaaaahh hahaha wwaaa hahahawwaa waaa he he (sniff sniff) (snot dripping)

    But it wasn’t that bad either. By 8th period when my friend pointed out that I still had a big round welt on my face in the exact shape of a plastic ball, I was laughing for reals. And plus, I had a slight bruise and a story to tell the rest of the week, which were both pretty cool.

  4. I leave disastrous messages on phones. I can’t leave a good phone message to save my life. I get nervous and I say dumb things. It’s almost as bad as this scene from the movie Swingers.(That I can’t even watch.)—I think he left a message . . .
    —You’re wrong: he just left a mess.
  5. I almost always feel like a mess.

So, I’m not sure if any of those connections had anything to do with the author’s intentions, but they’re there and they’re now a part of the piece and the impressions it left on me. Oh, and since I just had to share, maybe the impressions it left on you too.

Sorry about that.


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