Saturday, 26 December 2015

Crazy Thoughts in a Row

George Murray discusses how media ubiquity shaped his most recent book of poems.
I used to have ideas while waiting in lines at grocery stores, or while sitting in a bar, or walking down the street. Now all that time was filled with other distractions: pings from texts, Twitter alerts, 24-hour news crawls, cat videos on Facebook, ads talking to me at bus stops, five to 10 TVs per bar, all tuned to different channels, phone calls interrupting other phone calls, Candy Crush levels to be beaten, emails delivered directly to a watch on the wrist. That cavernous chamber in the brain was now filled all the time. I wasn’t writing because I was distracted.

Some people might solve this by going offline—getting a place in the country and going for long walks during which they examine birds and the change of seasons. But I was never that poet, and I also have what I like to call “a life.” My kids are wired and I need to communicate with them. I work in marketing and need to communicate with people all over the world. I live in a remote part of Canada and have friends in other cities and countries who I get to keep in touch with and whose kids I get to watch grow up via Facebook. My career as a poet and professor is conducted largely by email attachments and online teaching software. In short, I can’t leave that world.

So I thought: What would happen if instead of fighting for quiet space, I just let all the noise in? What would happen if I just wrote in the world around me, instead of getting out entirely? The result was simultaneously amazing and horrifying.

My new book, , is a product of this. Chaos. And yet, a kind of new order. Not poems of narrative: “here’s a loon I saw, and as I sat in my canoe looking at it through the mist, I had this revelation about myself and the world.” Rather: “here are the 41 crazy things I thought in a row, in which are buried both the mundane and the profound, and dear reader, since you already have to navigate these same streams of data yourself, I trust you’ll figure out what I’m talking about.”

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