To celebrate Dorianne Laux’s birthday, here’s an excerpt from our Mattress Talk, [8/6/11], where she remembers noticing the thrill of rhyme, and recalls being a tiny Dorianne, listening to the contours of her parents’ voices.
DORIANNE:Language is an organic part of our being alive and it arose because we needed some way to commune, to whisper to each other about being alive.
GENINE: And we also needed the salt passed to us.
DORIANNE: There you go. There you go. We needed the goddamned salt.
GENINE: It’s so handy
DORIANNE: Its such a handy thing, language. It really is, isn’t it? I’m so glad we have it. And it’s beautiful. Not only is it handy, it’s beautiful. It’s very functional, and yet, at the same time, it’s this gorgeous art, in and of itself. It’s just beautiful.
GENINE: It just knocks you over, how beautiful it is. Good thing we’re on a mattress!
DORIANNE: The sound of it, the look of it. Everything about it is gorgeous.
GENINE: Can you tell me more about that? Can you remember as a child, having a meta experience of language, not so much hearing the content, but where you were just like, Oh my god, that word is incredible, where you we appreciating language as language?
DORIANNE: Well, yeah. When you first start listening to nursery rhymes. When you realize language rhymes – you can rhyme. That’s a huge moment, right? When you go, Ring and sing. Oh my God! That’s just so amazing, and that you can play with it like a toy, like a little toy! We can manipulate it and make it do anything we want to! But also, one of the common experiences with language, is when we’re very young and you can hear your parents talking in the next room. It’s probably very similar to being in the womb and hearing those voices, but they don’t really make any sense yet. It’s just a lull; it’s like the ocean, again, a very organic thing that’s happening.
GENINE: The hum of your valved voice.
DORIANNE: You’re in bed and you’re hearing your parents talk. You’re just hearing the lovely lilt of it. [ she makes the sound] It’s this beautiful music, and you want to be a part of it, and it doesn’t matter that you don’t understand. And that mystery of not knowing what they’re saying is a wonderful mystery. And you’ll never know what they’re saying. Even if you knew the words, you still wouldn’t know what they were saying. I remember that, I remember listening to just the sounds of language and thinking it was so beautiful,
GENINE: That’s a wonderful image.
DORIANNE: or more the intonations, the ups and downs.
GENINE: The contours. Which has an interesting connection with Eliot, when he said, about The Wasteland, that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the languages that are in it, you just let it wash over you. That’s an interesting bumping up against that childhood experience, overhearing just the contours.
DORIANNE: How comforting it is.
GENINE: It is, I remember reading before 9-11, maybe it was in that hotel in Kansas where people were trapped under rubble, and just the sheer fact of hearing the vague outlines of human voices.
GENINE: And of course, they stood for the possibility that someone would rescue them, but just also, just the talking itself.
DORIANNE: Till human voices wake us and we drown.
GENINE: That sounds like the perfect
DORIANNE: place to stop.
Thank you to McRoskey Mattress Company and to Southern Exposure Gallery/Alternative Exposure for their support of Mattress Talks