Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Last Day of Betty Nkomo?

So what makes the following, a favorite multi-media poem by Heavy Industries, work as a poem? When I play this for my students it seems very clear. The lines are simple, they move forward in a natural progression. They evoke. They repeat. Build a scene, a small narrative. They are simple statements: Yes it is. I will lift my head today. I will look up, and that last, haunting repetition. Last year I saw several screens of work from these people at the New Museum in the Lower East Side however, and they failed, in that context at least, to compel me to watch.

There are dozens of other pieces here--what is so moving about Betty?


the unreliable narrator said...

I have no answers to the questions. But I agree it is completely captivating and wanted to say that. And maybe that is a kind of answer. That our intense interest in the text unfolding, unrolling, pulling us along, I want to know whether this person lifts her/his cheek from the dirt, is perhaps one definition (feeling very shaky here, being deliberately very blurry so I don't get pounced on) of narrative. The unfolding of a movement in time, water pouring into a cup, a ball arcing through the air. And our eyes follow it the same way a dog's or cat's would, we get absorbed by the motion, something in us wants to know what will happen, how the little poem-world will end. (In gray.)

Lemon Hound said...

Yes, it is the identification with a clear speaking subject--so minimally drawn too--that hooks us. (I hope there is no pouncing. Only poking.)