Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 25: Jessica Ankeny

Jessica Ankeny is a gifted poet in her second year at Sarah Lawrence. Her poem and observations from her writing time in the Musical Instruments section of the Met are below. 

The Reason Sound-Makers Go Behind Glass and We Look at Them, No, We Just Walk Past

It comes in bright
bright color sound, like curly, like desire for your body,
like my body, anybody
to play play play, smells like red, no, sounds like turquoise, don’t
know sound of horns on gourd, should thank
spiral, thank animal, thank reaching, horn? look ma! pulled
pipes from ‘neath the kitchen sink
please blow on it, I blow goat heads, I speak swollen, I envy
horny toad heart, I have
horny toad heart, I sing ragweed, I sound dragon,
I strung so tight my strings disintegrate, need to play need need
to sound like sound barrier, drum like whiskey, close your sing, no, close
your sing, no, sing metal, sing dust
removal, sing strung voice disintegration, smell no tune, no
tuning, how right note with no right tuning? push sound
with elbows, no, push the pep
pep mushing, no, open the carpet, pinch glass ‘till it screams—
there’s music inside, it’s there.


  It was a great pleasure to see Caitlin for the first time since she graduated. There is something about the MET, about looking at things meticulously maintained under glass, which encourages a formality and a referential nature in conversation. I like that. I also liked how our conversation changed while we were in the subway.
            We went first to the textiles hall or basement or dungeon or whatever, but even the doorbell won’t get you in on Saturdays.  I ended in the hall of Old World international instruments.  Caitlin was in the room of near-modern western instruments.  For a reason I can’t place there was one wicker chair in the middle of each hall. We respectively took the chairs. Caitlin’s room (I blame Ringo’s drum) was busier then mine. As I wrote I became more upset that these beautiful instruments, many of which were used in sacred rituals, were just sitting behind glass. What good is an instrument not played? Does a sacred object loose its sanctity if it’s not in use? If an object is not fulfilling the purpose of its creation is it really worth looking at? I don’t know. I am undecided if the information gleaned from viewing objects outside their context is even true. Sure, seeing a gourd with antelope horns coming out of it and strings wound tight between the horns is pretty cool. But saying something is cool without knowing what it sounds like, or what it was used for exactly, distorts any meaning it might have had. It lessens the sanctity of the object. Doesn’t it? I don’t know. Does it even matter? I think so, but even as I write this I make plans to go back and see those textiles.

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