I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
The quote from T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is an important motif in this poem by Safavian, inspired by overheard cell phone conversations. These conversations are intimately private yet their delivery in public spaces make them “become part of the poetry of public, everyday life,” according to Safavian. This idea of private confessions getting out into the world is a theme parallelled in Prufrock, which in turn references Guido da Montefeltro’s words in Dante’s Inferno (see the epigraph).
Safavian uses Photoshop filtered photographs of places in Baltimore to provide a setting and context to six voices, whose lines appear statically on the screen while a kinetic lines cascade or rise softly through the screen with verses that come from another speaker’s voice which reflects upon the overheard lines. This unifying voice is a layer that helps unify the poem, as is the image of the Baltimore skyline, and two layers of audio: a short musical loop that plays for several minutes and a lower volume voice loop of poetry. If you cannot make out the sotto voice track, you may want to wait for the music loop to end to appreciate it and its resonance in the poem.
All these layers blend to provide a rich poetic experience, one full of the rhythms of everyday speech, poetry, and snippets of life that one can experience on “certain half-deserted streets.”
Featured in Poems That GO.