In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ve asked some of the poets who have published in the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets to highlight and discuss a single line in their poetry that has special significance. Today Fiona Sze-Lorrain, author of The Ruined Elegance, talks about inspiration while writing “Midnight Almanac” (The Ruined Elegance, 34-35). Check this space weekly for more favorite lines throughout the month of April.
“All the parallel windows, different emptiness.”
—from “Midnight Almanac” in The Ruined Elegance (2016)
The image does not serve as an illustration.
This isn’t a favorite line of mine—it seems difficult for me to believe in the longevity of a favorite line—but one that has stopped me on a few occasions to think further about our current society. More precisely, the way we humans have chosen to live or exist, how we use the virtual space, for instance, to make ourselves “visible” or “audible” without necessarily engaging, face to face, with one another . . . and in what direction our civilization may be heading: if “we” —or should I say, the collective mass, their governments and institutions—continue to prioritize the economy and the industry, conform to social labels and homogeneity, or hide behind—as well as within—pigeonholed identities and comfort zones.
Human existence might become just that: a commodity.
Each to his/her own box or screen—
Perhaps this is why romanticizing solitude is a consolation prize for alienation, both physical and emotional.
Are our eyes still the windows to our souls?
When I came up with this verse, I had no specific address in mind.
I was, in fact, critiquing the possibilities of mediocrity. Being mediocre is safe. Banality works as a survival instinct.
I am also criticizing the hypocrisy of I agree, but . . .
Even windows now must look standardized.
jdjhbdjbagbdfbdfjvbdfhjbdgbrrOtherwise, we can’t (won’t) recognize them as windows.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a poet, literary translator, editor, and zheng harpist. The author of two previous books of poetry in English, My Funeral Gondola and Water the Moon, she also writes and translates in French and Chinese. She lives in Paris. She is the author of The Ruined Elegance: Poems.