Michael Black

Contact.

May, June, July, 2020.

 

And after the online job interview, I wondered whether I ought to look at my screen for eye contact.

 

Or is it now the way to look into camera? To stare unwaveringly. 

 

Too intense I reckon, let’s agree? 

 

In acting, I hear the rule is, NEVER look directly at camera. We need eye wandering as well as contact. 

 

By looking at a person’s video on your own screen to make eye contact, it is easier to see when they gently want to interrupt. Don’t let their need to interrupt grow too strong. 

If we all look at camera, we will not perceive making of EYE CONTACT. 

***

I remember accidentally throwing my friends reusable contact lenses down the sink, because I thought it was a mere glass of water. A classic contact mistake. Contact means touching, embodied or otherwise. I think here of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s fable of the chiasm, that shows subject and object may not be an antithesis, but a unity. I attempt sharing this perspective, to ‘intellectual signal’, at dinner parties and online chat rooms. This invites little contact, more contradiction. The contact politics were dull in this case, whereas usually they are very dangerous. 

Contact means to complete something, whether an electrical circuit, or a poetry reading. I am not interested in electricity, despite depending on it. In Nadja, written by André Breton, published in 1928, the title character declares ‘I cannot be reached.’ Over three months, I am re-introduced to members of the University of Dundee poetry society, which meant I could Zoom into meetings occurring across, Dundee, Glasgow, Munich, Singapore. This is my experience of contact poetics for the summer. One of my favourite poets who understands their vitalising contact rituals through crystals has also been reading on Zoom. I listen to great poets, all new to me on Zoom. All from different continents and time zones. I start contact retracing my connections, as if they might offer new insights. Contact surrealism. 

For the summer solstice, as contact is being re-introduced, I go to an after party of reading poetry in honour of the sun. Beforehand, I was encouraged to draw parallels between this experience and Ari Aster’s horror-break up movie, Midsommar. I make contact with the poetry of Mary Oliver. I read ‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun on Fire Island’, by Frank O Hara, for the first time. I recommend it heartily. I have only just now realized, on July 27th, that O Hara was invoking the Daedalus myth. A paragon of contact hubris. People also were reading from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Yeats, and Burns. Later I made a note to think more of contact poetics, for future projects.

Michael Black is an easily contactable PhD at the University of Glasgow, writing a thesis in praise of Virginia Woolf and William Blake. 

© 2020 Colin Herd and all the individual poets

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