Yes, I own a record player. I have and use a typewriter, and I will only read books I can turn the pages of. I’m sure I’d be a hipster if I were younger, but here’s the thing. I really think they are on to something. There’s a reason there are hipsters.
When did the term unwind become unplug?
When did our lives shrink from the scope of our vision when we sit and stand and walk and run and dance in the world to the size of our personal screen?
In the past few years, I have come to realize that I am a kinder, happier person when I unplug—the longer, the better.
And yet, so much of my life—of all of our lives—takes place on a computer. I write on a computer. I make appointments and keep up with friends on the computer. And, right now, I teach on the computer. But in an effort to spend more time in the real world, I am letting go of my position as poetry professor of our local community college, because the college has taken poetry classes exclusively online. The numbers are better. Advanced poetry these days is a difficult class to sell, as you might imagine.
We talk about the seventh generation—but I’m deeply concerned about this next one. What are we (who are so busy making this world for them) thinking about? What is important to us? The oceans, the wild places, the beautiful air we have on the earth? Do we still yearn to be in touch with this world, even as we stare at our screen? What have computers taken the place of? What will they take the place of? And what, as we gaze at these screens all day and well into the night, are we forgetting to do? Or to be?
I miss the sort of teaching of poetry where everyone meets in a room for one evening a week for the space of one semester—one movement from winter to the end of the spring, or from the summer heat to the longest night of the year. I miss sharing the poetry that’s been inside us all along, waiting to come out into the world, to be given breath to. This is how poetry has been shared for as long as we’ve been human. And now we are reading each other’s words on an electric screen. Not real words, not really. You can’t feel the breath of the person who reads their poem, you can’t see her face and how her cheeks flush, you can’t hear the unexpected catch in her throat.
My goal this year is to become as unplugged as possible. And then to report back to this world about that other world. The real world.