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Channeling Gertrude

February 27, 2012

by Tom Konyves

Everyone hears voices.

The voice I heard that night was the voice she used to write the names she used in writing.

“make a name for yourself”

what if the name makes the sound of a smoke alarm when it makes us listen up to the sound, it makes us rush toward the sound like a long lost one, one who has been lost to us without a sound, now there is a sound of one who may have been lost only to us, not without a name, but a name whose sound makes someone stand up and turn to us rushing toward them like a long lost someone whose name is the same

now what if the name is the same as someone else who has not been lost to us, but with us all the while and he or she is the same one whose face is so familiar that we would recognize them no matter where they were, he or she, and even if they came up behind us in a sudden wind whose touch was not immediately familiar but whose face was as familiar as could be

and if the sound of the name is recognized by someone who hears the name and suddenly the wind dies and the sound of the name is clear to us but not to someone who still hears the wind rushing to meet them at the train station

who has not recognized the sound of the name he or she hears at the train station, can the sound be recognized to make someone turn into the wind and still hear clearly, the name whose sound is the same as when they left and were lost to us who will always recognize the name and the sound of the wind rushing toward the train station

and the more we hear the sound of the name the more we begin to recognize that it is the same name we have always heard from a distance and it continued to sound in our ears as if we had always heard the name, no not a sudden wind, would make us turn toward the voice who said the name because it was familiar

or if it was so familiar that the name was the same as so many other names whose sound, like the wind in a train station, where the sound of names and places and time and faces are many, so many

now they say that you can’t go home again because it is not the same home you left when you were lost to someone in a place and time we recognize when we hear someone speak about this or that place or time and it is always the past where it is all so familiar and even if it is not we don’t have to be so careful about what we do

if the name is familiar and we recognize the sound as someone who has left us for far away where the past is unfamiliar and the sound is not one we recognize but one whose sound makes the sound of a whistle, we turn to face the direction of the sound and if he or she is different from the one who is lost to us, we turn and return to the home where he or she is sitting on the steps and smiling


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Tom Konyves writes, “An unusual experience prompted the writing of this poem — hearing the voice of someone we have never met. For me, it was the voice of Gertrude Stein. I managed to capture only one brief statement: ‘make a name for yourself.’ What followed was a torrent of words that astonished me; it was like being caught up in a whirlwind. Almost faster than I could record them, repeated phrases — with minute modifications — swirled through my mind and onto the page. When it was done, it was as if the words had been written by another. I then truly understood Rimbaud’s famous phrase, ‘Je est un autre.'”

Based in Montreal until 1983, Tom Konyves is most recognized for his mid-seventies association with The Vehicule Poets — a period distinguished by Dadaist/Surrealist/experimental writings, performance works and “videopoems.” In 1978, he coined the term “videopoetry” to describe his multimedia work, and is considered to be one of the original pioneers of the form. His books of poetry include No Parking (Vehicule Press), Poetry in Performance (The Muses Company), Ex Perimeter (Caitlin Press) and Sleepwalking Among The Camels: New and Selected Poems (The Muses Company). He is currently living in White Rock, British Columbia, teaching Visual Poetry at the University of the Fraser Valley.

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  1. April 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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