A few weeks ago, a woman emailed me to see if I was interested in reading some of my poetry at a Nuit Blanche event she was organizing. My friends at Diaspora Dialogues had passed her my contact, thinking I might be a good fit, but I wasn’t so sure. I hadn’t released any poetry into the world for some time, and my older writing was starting to feel, well, old. Still, I was curious and flattered, so I called her to learn more.
She said her recent work explored technology and the relationships people have with and through it, pulling on the sinewy wires that lash our hearts to the machine. Something inside me hummed awake. I’d been fiddling with the machine, too, and I’d managed to jostle a few words from between its gears. Maybe I did have some writing to share after all.
I warned her that the pieces were quite different from the writing that had earned me the introduction. I wasn’t even sure I’d call them poems. But I liked them and I thought they were a better reflection of my current obsessions and voice.
She invited me to her studio to read them.
A few days later, I was walking down an unfamiliar laneway in a familiar part of town – one of my favourite Toronto pastimes – with a couple of pieces ready to go. The metallic sky hinted at the first autumn decay, but the streets still swaggered with summer, as if sheer force of will could keep the city smoulder aglow.
I found her door, took a breath, and knocked.
Within minutes we were sitting on couches, continuing our conversation. We held the machine up to the light, turned it over, spat on it, cuddled with it, broke it down, and reassembled it. Our creative energies aligned, like we were playing music. Or dancing. I said I was ready to read if she was ready to listen.
I pulled the tether from my pocket, brightened its darkwake face, and swiped the words alive. I apologized for relying on a gorilla glass retina display for my words, but she shook her head, smiled, and waited.
I lowered my hand to minimize interference and to meet her eyes. And then I told her about the weeds, about the stars, about the tether. I told her about being lost in transit, about loving and hating my cyborg life. I told her about fantasies of spraying graffiti over policy and pasting hand-drawn maps over CAD.
When I finished, she laughed and told me the writing was perfect. It was such a humbling endorsement of my work, of words that had emerged from a place I had long thought ground away.
But there was a problem: I wasn’t going to be in the city for the night of Nuit Blanche. I’d been invited to a sweat lodge near Collingwood, and nothing was going to keep me from participating, not even sharing this accidental poetry. She refused to let me consider, telling me she find another writer. There would be other projects, other collaborations.
For an audition that didn’t lead to a reading, it was as successful as I could have hoped. Before I stood up to leave, left me with a question, speaking words that wormed deep:
“Do you think you can memorize it?”
I made my way back to the sidewalk, the tether asleep as I re-merged with the sweating citystream.