What focus?

Whenever you look at a piece of art, read poetry, or play a video game, almost always there is a focus. Something that your eye is drawn to,  that immediately calls your attention and requires you to focus on that aspect or idea throughout the experience.

However in Buzzing Hemispheres by Uryoán Noel, specifically in his poem “Langú” this is not the case. Although it is not uncommon to have no focus in paintings, I personally had never really seen this idea of no direct focus done so well other than in this poem. The various poems in this book have many different meanings, and overall there is a focus of two major ideas, which helps this poem become so unique.

These ideas are noise, and deterritorialization. In “Langú” however, it’s mostly this idea of deterritorialization. Normally a military term, this idea of deterritorialization is emphasized in taking what is normal, what has been territorialized, and working backwards, against what is already established. This is displayed in this poem as usually a single language, especially in poetry or novels, is seen as the focus. Other languages or translations are almost always pushed to the side, seen as just a repetition of the original language.

My brain niinindib cerebro it makes madwewe ruido noise apii cuando choca con when it hits bitaakosin aki la tierra the earth hello! boozhoo! hola!
Mi tierra aki my land is what lo que me viene comes to mind a la mente mikwendaagwad niiyaw de mi cuerpo of my body al gaguear as it stutters gagiibanagaskwe
Ombiigizi tierra my noisy earth mi ruidosa aki is recollected mikwendan es un andar babaa-ayaa rememorado wandering
Soy niinitam inwewin ruidoso I’m noisy language lenguaje ombiigizi land of body
tierra del cuerpo niiyaw aki gagiibanagaskwe gagueando un stuttering boozhoo! hola! hello!
noise memory language land brain body
agimediruni abadi iñeñei mua sesu úgubu
noise memory language land brain body
babel memoria idioma pais selebre kurpa
noise memory language land brain body
napituruk itqaqtuq uqautchit nuna qaqisaq timi
noise memory language land brain body
As seen from this excerpt, at first it may look like English is the focus. At first, English comes first, then the Spanish translation. However it changes constantly, and then Spanish goes first, and then English. This idea of no focus and the deterritorialization of normality of languages is further shown with how the Spanish is bolded. Is it because it’s more important? Is it because it’s supposed to feel interrupting to the English words? It’s hard to tell, because focus is not meant to be made, and the author does it beautifully.
In a way, it creates two focuses, and two meanings. And even then, it isn’t just a direct translation from English, as seen in the last Stanza. It shows multiple translations, giving the Spanish more depth and meaning in comparison to the English. Its so complex and the way it interlocks and works is unique, and it really makes you wonder. What is the focus?
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Repeat Stuff, repeat stuff, repeat stuff

 

If you want to get a point across, one of the best ways to do it is through constant repetition. Just take a look at Bo Burnham.

Here he takes the idea of repetition, and uses it to hammer home how pop culture songs need to repeat constantly to make the chorus more memorable. And surprisingly, he gets his point across in this satire by repeating, “repeat stuff” over and over.

However this isn’t the only way repetition can be used as a powerful tool . In the novel Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, repetition is one of the most compelling tools that Mujila uses to express his literary poetry. Right off the bat, in the beginning of the book the reader is introduced to the place known as Tram 83, and through some intense repetition, the reader is let know, the diversity and feel of the people that exist in this place.

“Inadvertent musicians and elderly prostitutes and prestidigitators and Pentecostal preachers and students resembling mechanics and doctors conducting diagnoses in nightclubs and young journalists already retired and transvestites and second-foot shoe peddlers and porn film fans and highwaymen and pimps and disbarred lawyers and casual laborers and former transsexuals and polka dancers and pirates of the high seas and seekers of political asylum and organized fraudsters and archaeologists and would-be bounty hunters and modern day adventurers and explorers searching for a lost civilization and human organ dealers . . .” Page 7

Keep in mind, that this quote goes on for another 170 words. It can already be seen how repetition, although tedious and some would say hard to read, can paint some pretty obvious mental images to readers.

But repetition can also be expressed in a different way. Take how in Tram 83, whenever any of the characters are in Tram 83, there are always prostitutes stating “Do you have the time?,” offering their services to them. At first, the characters told them to shove off. One of the characters, Requiem, even yelling back to “go check [their] papa’s watch!” (Page 8). However the further the reader gets, the insisting of the prostitutes never ends, to the point where it will blatantly interrupt the main characters talking with “Do you have the time?” or “I don’t like foreplay.” Through repetition, an invisible bond is formed with the reader and the characters. At first, the prostitutes are annoying and difficult to read with, since they are always interrupting the characters, yet at the end of the book neither the characters, nor the reader, pay any attention to them. Due to the incessant repetition, what is made to be annoying and ever-present in both the place of Tram 83 to the characters, and to the text of Tram 83 to the readers, they become dulled out and fade into the background.

These are just some clever ways repetition is used to prove a point. So remember, if you ever need to get a point across, you might want to try repeating yourself.

 

 

Violence; as if it were breathing

As people begin to pick up and learn habits, certain things become normalized. Perhaps saying “I’m okay” when a person isn’t feeling that great, or asking “How is the weather?” when there is nothing else to say. These sort of reactions become normalized. But what if a taboo, or something morally wrong, became normalized? In Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, the author tackles some pretty heavy ideas, and in a strange dystopian way, treats these heavy subjects as if they were the most basic of ideas.

In the novel, there exists two places that the narrators showcase the reader to. Utopia, and the Other. And although one might think, violence should show only in the Other, they actually occur in both, but the extreme is more often seen in the Other. Due to extreme poverty, people in the Other have become incredibly dehumanized, and sent into a living based off of drugs, violence, and sex. This is seen commonly throughout the novel as many women are seen as prostitutes, and although prostitution can be argued as dehumanizing in itself, it gets worse. At one point in the novel, one of the characters is speaking to a prostitute and she states as if it was common knowledge that “all men don’t get their full pleasure without hitting a woman,” heavily insinuating that abuse and violence to women is commonplace (106).

Not only is abuse a horrible thing, but it can be seen as even worse if it becomes as easy or as commonplace as breathing. One of the main characters in the story who is arguable the ‘good character,’ is tempted to rape a sleeping woman, and her sister who looks up to him and praises him says that he “deserves to enjoy [himself and] to take [his] time” with her, feeling “touched on [his] account, with moist eyes, her behavior akin to a mother’s affection.”(115) Not only was her sister okay with her brother raping a sleeping woman, but she felt that he deserved the moment, as if it his reward for his hard work.

Although we as human beings think this may never come to be, certain actions and ideals can slowly turn numb. Moral compasses can gradually fade away, and the extreme circumstance of numbing of the soul is represented in Utopia. Now more than ever, is it crucial to take a minute, and think about your actions, and what is considered “normal” before something like this could begin to take root.

 

 

America as the Latrine

There exists an American perspective where other developing countries may seem pretty crappy and have nothing in comparison to great and amazing America, where nothing is wrong.

However this perspective severely satirized in the novel Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera. In this novel, a girl named Makina goes into the U.S.A illegally, and instead of seeing the glorious dream-filled economical fortune that America can be viewed as, Makina instead sees it as a unwelcoming, racist, and perverse place. In the novel, as she reached America she only got “a few dozen yards . . .[before] staring up at the sky” and thinking how already, “it was . . . different, more distant or less blue,” and how one of the first glorious sights of America was thought to be a peaceful pregnant woman resting, who turned out to be a bloated dead corpse. (17, 19)

 

memes

That’s some pretty clear imagery of expectation subversion, and it continues onward with how most of the American white men are portrayed in the novel. Nearly every single white male that Makina comes into contact with wants to either sexually harass her or kill her. This is seen in Chapter 3 where a ‘Patriot’ calls Makina’s friend a Coyote, and intends to shoot them both. Or Chapter 4 where Makina meets a man named Mr. P who had a belt that “hung a long, thin knife  . . . that Mr. P patted nonstop” while he looked at her crotch and asked her to work for him. Or perhaps in Chapter 6 where “a huge redhead anglo who stank of tobacco was staring at her . . . just itching to kick her or fuck her.”

Its quite clear what the author was going for, and in a way the author is right. Many people view United States as this glorious, perfect country, when it’s very messed up in a variety of ways. The novel goes above and beyond in representing this, portraying American white males as perverts, unwelcoming, easily irritable, and racist. It just goes to show how single-minded and ethnocentric people can be. Although America is good in it’s own ways, it can also be seen as a latrine in others in the way the people treat other human beings who are just a bit different.