Why We Tell Stories by Phil Kaye (Transcript)

December 1, 2014 11:22 am | By More

Transcript: Phil Kaye speaks at TEDxMiddlebury on Why We Tell Stories

 

“Phil Kaye is a touring poet, published author, and co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E. He has appeared on NPR, performed at Lincoln Center, and most recently coached and performed on the 2011 Providence National Poetry Team, ranked third in the nation. His first book, A Light Bulb Symphony, was published in 2011, and his work can be found regularly in CHAOS Magazine.”

 

Audio-MP3

 

YouTube Video:

 

 

Phil Kaye – Author

Hi. My name is Phil. And I want to start with a poem.

My mother taught me this trick

If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning

For example:

Homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework

See, nothing

Our lives, she said, are the same way.

You watch the sun set too often, it just becomes 6 PM

You make the same mistake over and over; you’ll stop calling it a mistake

If you just

wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up,

one day you’ll forget why

I should’ve known nothing is forever

My parents left each other when I was 7 years old

Before their last argument they sent me off to the neighbor’s house,

like some astronaut jettisoned from the shuttle.

When I came back there was no gravity in our home,

I imagined it as an accident, that when I left

They whispered to each other “I love you” so many times over

that they forgot what it meant

Family, family, family, family, family, family

My mother taught me this trick

If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning

This became my favorite game

It made the sting of words evaporate.

Separation, separation, separation;

see, nothing

Apart, apart, apart;

see, nothing

I am an injured handyman now

I work with words all day

Shut up, I know the irony!

When I was young, I was taught that the trick to dominating language

was breaking it down

Convincing it that it was worthless

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you;

See, nothing

Soon after my parents’ divorce, I developed a stutter

Fate is a cruel and efficient tutor

There is no escape in stutter

You feel the meaning of every word drag itself up your throat

S-s-s-separation

Stutter is a cage made of mirrors

Every “What’d you say?”

Every “Come on kid, spit it out”

Is a glaring reflection of an existence that you cannot escape

Every awful moment trips over its own announcement

 

Again and again until it just hangs there in the center of the room

As if what you had to say had no gravity at all.

Mom, Dad,

I am not wasteful with my words anymore.

Even now after hundreds of hours of practicing away my stutter,

I can still feel the claw of meaning in the bottom of my throat.

Listen to me, I have heard that even in space;

You can hear the scratch of an

I-I-I-I love you.

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