Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gigabyte by Mary Cresswell

The fact is that computers, like people,
have no problem remembering the messy stuff:
it's forgetting they can't do.

How much memory can you sell me? I want it all, asleep and awake, at the light
touch of a finger. I want the blood to stay liquid, the bones never to rise again, the
stink to stay undissipated in either still or moving air.

Forget bloody algorithms, archives, downloads, codices, indices, books, paper-brittle
files to fragment into contemplation, make me rest on my heels, make me wonder at
all this dust and cold coffee, ask what I am really after and is it worth it.

I have seen you watching action glowing in the dark bodies twisting, coupling, dying
out as the power dies leaving images burnt on memory ready to retrieve. We know
our passion is present; our passion is action.

You know, too, such frenzies are best gulped down fresh before some ungodly
troika variously rendered as reason, recall, reflection clatters up the driveway like
unwelcome parents coming home early because they forgot the key, when you
thought they would be out all night and leave you to it with all your mindless

Originally published in the online magazine, Talking, Writing, in January 2012.
Reproduced here with kind permission from the author.

                                          Editor: Elizabeth Welsh

Mary Cresswell is a Wellington poet who lives on the Kapiti Coast. Her book, Trace Fossils, was published by Steele Roberts in 2011. I have admired Mary's poetry for quite some time, and I recently stumbled across this new poem - Gigabyte - when I was reading a fascinating article 'Why Poets Sometimes Think in Numbers' in the online literary magazine, Talking Writing. 

I was immediately drawn to the poem, with its focus on time, memory, and the intertwining of past, present and future experiences, having spent hours during my Masters delving into the conceit of inner time in New Zealand literature. 

The idea of memory as a possible commodity - something to be purchased, to be 'had', to be casually picked up - is so human, so real. I can't express enough how much I feel that Mary has hit the nail on the head with her final stanza, where she invites the reader to share in, and relish, those trembling lived, felt, experienced moments - 'such frenzies are best gulped down fresh' - that seem to hold such illicit pleasures - 'you thought they would be out all night and leave you to it'.

When I contacted Mary to ask her if I could republish 'Gigabyte', she was kind enough to share with me some of her thoughts behind the poem and her approach: 'Like most of us, I think a lot about memory as I grow older. It irritates me that memory doesn't fall into nice, manageable compartments - it would be so much easier to deal with if it did. But, alas, at times, the past is as much a happening as the present is, and there are moments when I find them totally mixed in with each other. This poem "just happened" (pretty much) in one of those moments.'

For more information about her and her innovative poetry, please see her profile on the New Zealand Book Council website.

Elizabeth Welsh is a freelance editor, poet and PhD student. Originally from New Zealand, she now lives in South London. Her poetry and short fiction has been published in print and online. She is currently writing a chapter for a book collection on Katherine Mansfield's influences and has recently returned from speaking on Mansfield at the Sorbonne. She blogs about literary stuff here.

After reading 'Gigabyte', please do take the time to dip into this week's poetry selections from the rest of the Tuesday Poem community. You can find these listed along at the sidebar.


Janis Freegard said...

I'm always a fan of Mary's work. Thanks for posting this one.

Helen Lowe said...

Love it, Elizabeth -- & I think it's a haibun, right? ot at least 'haibun-ish' in form...

lillyanne said...

This is an immensely powerful and fascinating poem, and I love meeting it here. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Many thanks all for the comments & to the very lovely and deserving Mary for letting me post 'Gigabyte'! It is such an engaged poem with a fascinating form :)

Anonymous said...

A most provocative piece. The whole messy mix of it all. But where would we be without it? I relate to this, have often remarked that my personal hard drive is too full. But then the clarity that comes sometimes...after a good old defrag.
'We know our passion is present; our passion is action.' Love that bit.
Than you Elizabeth and Mary.

Michelle Elvy said...

This is great fun. All the rhythm and momentum toward recall and recollection. Very cool idea. I like the way it moves -- and she has such interesting formulations like that "ungodly troika variously rendered as reason, recall, reflection clatters up the driveway like unwelcome parents coming home early" -- I just love that! Thanks for sharing this poem this week and the link Talking Writing. Good stuff!