FitP Poet Highlight 20/82: Alex Caldiero, “Seeing a Body”

This poem, which I’ve taken to calling “Seeing a Body” for ease of reference, melds performance and content in order to compel an awareness of the body’s connection to the earth and to language and sound—even to compel an awareness of the body’s connection to the earth and to tradition through the sonic dimensions of language. What follows is a textual representation of his performance:

Rain mists the people gathered for the 350.org organized event. After a brief introduction from the event emcee, Caldiero takes the microphone, steps before the crowd, and lies down on the cement. Holding a hardbound tome over his face, he puts the microphone to mouth, pants for a few seconds—each breath with increasing intensity—and begins to read/recite this short poem.

After closing the extended /i/ in “body,” he finishes the performance with a series of drawn-out guttural sounds—primal gruntings—then stands up, thanks the crowd, and replaces the microphone. Yet, even after his performance is completed and Caldiero has left the stage area, his presence—a serendipitous reminder of his performance, its grounding in the full-bodied, epic tradition of the Sicilian cuntastorie, and the intended impact and meaning of his speech-act—lingers: because he had lain down on somewhat dry cement just as the rainfall picked up, when he stands to leave, the outline of his body remains on the ground.

This physical marker of the sonosopher’s presence further highlights—and in the process deepens the viewer’s embedment in—the acoustic geography mapped out by his performance: the aural composition evoked through the process of experiencing Caldiero’s words, allowing those words—metonyms for objects and experiences, even experiences in themselves—and their sounds to wash over the imagination, and attending to the physical sensation the performer’s voiced-text produces in the hearer. This physical experience of sounded language, prompted by the paralinguistic play of Caldiero’s words—the intonations, the cadence, the verbal gestures toward connection—foregrounds the notion of words, as embodied sounds, as experiences in themselves.

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