At the time, if you had asked me what I might miss most about my Melbourne life, the Markets wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Boys, friends, record stores — these were the things I considered most meaningful.
In 1990, my American mother decided it was time for her to return home, and for the rest of us — four kids, one husband — to go with her. I arrived in Denver, Colorado, as a pissed-off 14-year-old with purple hair and a funny accent, separated from my father and my friends. My new home seemed to lack any discernible street life, only cars and tidy neighborhoods and malls. The most visceral culture shock came in the aisles of American supermarkets, which were sterile and bright and exciting in a morally ambiguous kind of way. The yogurt was different (sweeter), the candy was different (better), the cookies were called cookies, not biscuits. Rather than the vibrant, stinky thrill of Vic Market’s maze of stalls, in Denver, shopping for food was an act of sanitary consumerism. For my stepfather especially, the pleasure of shopping, and therefore of cooking and eating, was blunted. What had been a raucous joy became a cold chore.
When the seemingly unimaginable—at least to certain people—happened and Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 Presidential election, many of her supporters suddenly started asking questions about what went wrong: Could something have been done differently? What if her strategy had been more aggressive? What if she’d campaigned more in Wisconsin? What if she’d added Bernie Sanders to her ticket—or what if Sanders had won the nomination to begin with? What if the media had covered Donald Trump differently? What if? What if? When we think back and try to answer those questions, we’re thinking about building alternate histories based on the notion that we can somehow, miraculously, go back in time and do it all over.
Thinking about time travel may seem like something humans have been doing since the first caveman dropped the first rock on his foot. But, even to begin to imagine the possibility of time travel, your mind must be able to wrap itself around the notion of a past and a future. Otherwise, where would you be travelling, exactly? In his new book, “Time Travel,” James Gleick argues that before the invention of the printing press, less than six hundred years ago, notions of any sort of temporal dislocation were next to impossible; people saw the future as relatively similar to the past—large changes over time simply weren’t visible or accessible. We could travel over geographical distances, exploring unknown lands, but the exploration of time wasn’t on anyone’s mind. The furthest people went was to seek a personal prophecy. But that didn’t involve a vision of time travel so much as a desire to know what lay in store for you, personally; for the world at large, well, what you saw was what you got, now and forever.
The longer I’ve lived my life with poetry, the more I desire to hear it aloud, experience it aloud. Now, when I read poetry collections, I often catch myself murmuring the poems when I think I’m silently reading, no matter if I’m in public or alone, and other times I indulge my desire to hear the poem by reading it aloud to my dog. (I censor out the words “walk,” “eat,” and “out,” however, else I get his hopes up.) It also means that I increasingly desire good reading performances from poets, even find myself bitter at lackluster and monotone readings, at “poet voice” and its attendant pendulum swings between apathy and taking-oneself-too-seriously. I find myself downloading podcasts of readings, casting around for those cadences that will live in me, over which I can improv my own songs. My whole writing process has changed because of this. Now I often start my drafts by speaking aloud the words, allowing the poems to come to me, to live on my mouth, on my tongue, before they ever make it to the page.
Leave it to New York City to have not one but two Dickens societies. After an unpleasant split more than 20 years ago, the two similar groups have been operating in close parallel with no reunification in sight.
Both groups are chapters of the worldwide Dickens Fellowship, founded in 1902 in London, and both try to keep Dickens’s memory alive by discussing his work at monthly meetings held — separately, of course — at the same library branch on East 23rd Street.