I’ve never been a fan of technology; there’s dozens of poems stored away on hard drives, social media sites, and the cloud to prove it.
That’s why it was no small suprise that when the COVID-19 pandemic seized the world and essentially quarantined me on the other side of the globe, technology was the thing to liberate me.
In a figurative sense, of course. Both the pandemic and technology have dark consequences we are reminded about daily, but there has been a few consequential benefits, too.
For me, among the most significant has been the various Zoom meetings, conferences, and readings held by groups such as the S.D. Poetry Society.
Because of where I work (Saudi Arabia), my interaction with fellow English language poets has been limited. I’m not an academic. I work in a company that employs tens of thousands of engineers. And I only began writing poetry a fews years ago.
Still, thanks to technology, I have been able to find a community of welcoming poets and artists through various forums, readings, and brainstorming sessions. And while it may not have the traditional warmth of meeting in person, I’ve found participants eager to participate and comment and share. And the travel is much faster and less expensive.
I SING THE BAUD ELECTRIC Standing still in the eye of isolation, we come together millions of pixels at a time, conversations stifled only by stuttering fiber optics that squeal and chirp and bend our speech beneath the weight of a sleepless search for meaning here in the ether. I sing the baud electric, armies of images fantastic filling unsuspecting caches hidden from our shrinking ken, the love of algorithm and knowledge plucked like fruit from trees, twisted stems righting wrongs derived by faulty memory. Bathed in a blanket of blue light flickering, I call out in protocol to brothers real and imagined through rhymeless songs, dirges and sonnets, ballads and odes wrapped in words warped by a Hollywood Squares panel of the muted, no smell of liquor on their breath or faint judgment in their sighs. I sing the lyric eclectic, patchwork screens and open windows reflecting off eyeglasses in dim mornings as recitations of typewritten words fall from trembling lips and off bare bouncing knees obscured by a forgiving fish-eye lens and sturdy desk cover, a body of armor from which to bare my soul to shelves of dusty unread books, a half-working wireless printer, and 5 gigahertz of mechanical magnificence. Bound by borders closed to reduce the risk of infection, I am freed by the need for men, women, and children to look into each other eyes, to hear another’s voice, to speak their heart’s desire into something other than the void, and I crash the party with reckless abandon, answering a call to keep living even when couched in slight delay, half-frozen frames, and friends with names I knew long before meeting.
By Todd Williams
To watch Todd Williams read his poem “I Sing the Baud Electric”