With this week’s focus on the materiality of language, I was particularly drawn to the comb poems and their place within society. Using these combs, or also known as ‘love tokens’, the owner would have to work with the comb to access the entire poem. As Erika Boeckeler comments, “the dynamic interaction between text and object guides user interaction.” I think it is sometimes hard to resist becoming too consumed with the idea that language and text is limited to book form or digital documents. I was also intrigued by a discussion concerning graffiti – very much a controversial form of expression. Why is this? Street art is not always offensive, but is considered vandalism due to the deliberate ‘destruction’ of public property. Is there perhaps certain ignorance to the limits of the materiality of language?
The language for a person after death has extensive possibilities – whether an obituary in a local newspaper, a poem or sermon of choice at the funeral or on the gravestone; language for/about a person withstands death. With attention paid to my PET Book, I applied this thinking to the genre of graveyard poetry. In The Grave Robert Blair comments on the graveyard,
“Th’ appointed place of rendezcous, where all
These trav’llers meet”.
Graveyards, although perhaps a morbid scene, embody through language loving messages. The name, birth/death dates and message are emblazoned on the marble or granite. A gravestone gives a last chance to memorialize a loved one who has passed away, after the language within the funeral – this is not only the last message, but also has a considerate life span (if you pardon the choice of words). This suggests a sense of limitless time for the words. Even in death, learn something about that person – through the branding upon this material, there is a constant place of remembrance on earth.
Language has a beautiful way of shaping and recreating the world. Whilst the human interaction with language is more apparent in the comb poems, I feel that the gravestone gives an interesting difference. The comb poem, or a posie ring is designed for restrictive access – a ‘love token’ gives an incredibly personal message, a “symbolic love discourse”, that is to be carried around close to the recipient. The gravestone gives a particular sense of vulnerability and openness through language; these details are personal to the person and family, but at the same time give insight to strangers. This gave me a stronger understanding into the poems within this collection – particularly Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Gray’s poem has a focus on the stripping of the unnecessary aspects of life – prestige and wealth, in death we are all the same. Whilst I view the posie ring or comb poem as a signifier of wealth, and thus a barrier between the classes, apart from the material of the grave stone (a richer material meaning a family richer in wealth) – this conveying of emotion on a withstanding material gives a poignant message about life and death.