Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

AFTERNOON WITH MOTEN: Note #2

A fternoon with Fred Moten is a limited Brittle Paper series. Catch up on the story behind these unusual class notes @ Afternoon with Fred Moten Note # 1

Note # 2

A man stopped them on their way from the river. He said he wanted to read them a poem he had written himself. They interrupted him. They said they were in a hurry. They said it was rude of him to stop them just like that. Yet they did not say they were not in the mood for some kind of spectacle. If nothing else, it could distract the sun from taking an all too keen interest in their tired bodies. So they waited. The poet cleared his throat.  But no sound came. His face twitched. His bushy brows fluttered. His stomach crunched. A fly buzzed by and perched on his upper lip. For a moment the onlookers thought the fly was the poet’s puppet. A puppet master and a fly. What a show! They waited for the fly to sing like flies do. But the fly simply buzzed on. Taking the poet’s open mouth as an open invitation, the fly lost itself in the deep silence of his esophagus.

At this point, it became clear that the problem was not that the poet was silent but that he was silent in spite of a widely gaping mouth. The spectators could not leave, trapped in expectation. The poet would not speak, caught in the grips of potentiality. At least, that was how a man in the crowd later explained what happened. He had been reading the writings of one Avicenna, a great Persian philosopher who  lived in the 12th century. Avicenna was a doctor, so he wrote medical books. But he was also a philosopher, so he thought about a lot of things. Things like Aristotle and his concept of potentiality or can we say possibility without fulfillment? Anyway, like any good student, Avicenna kinda outstripped Aristotle and came up with the idea of “perfect potentiality.” He chose as its sublime example “the figure of the scribe in the moment in which he does not write.” But it could as well be the image of a poet caught in the threshold of speech and silence.

 

 

 

 

 


Tags: , , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “AFTERNOON WITH MOTEN: Note #2” Subscribe

  1. Krismas 2011/09/20 at 00:12 #

    ….u mean, a poet, caught ryhming, wit a voice of silence?

  2. admin 2011/09/20 at 02:43 #

    @ Krismas: Abi o. Lol. By the way, thanks for stopping by Brittle Paper.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Un-Silencing Queer Nigeria: The Language of Emotional Truth | Five Writers in Conversation

Brittle Paper Anniversary Conversation - Un-Silencing Queer Nigeria

To mark BRITTLE PAPER‘s 7th anniversary in 2017, we organised two conversations on our Facebook page. The second, themed “Un-Silencing […]

#LIPFest18 | Register for Poetry Workshops with Kwame Dawes, Nick Makoha, Lebo Mashile, and Yomi Sode 

lipfest - lebo mashile

The 2018 Lagos International Poetry Festival (#LIPFest18) is offering workshops by some of the biggest names in contemporary African poetry. Much-honoured […]

The Freedom Artist, Ben Okri’s New Novel Forthcoming in January 2019, Is a Rallying Call in a Post-Truth Society

Ben Okri. Photo credit: David Levenson / Getty.

Ben Okri has a new novel forthcoming in January 2019. The Nigerian novelist-poet-essayist, who is the only black African to […]

Nuruddin Farah’s 14th Novel, North Of Dawn, Explores the Lives of Somali Immigrants in Norway and Experiences of Religion and Jihadism

nuruddin farah boundary2.org

Celebrated Somali writer Nuruddin Farah’s new novel will be out on 4 December 2018. The 384-page North of Dawn, forthcoming […]

Literary Prizes and the Decisions of Writers

Conde

Maryse Conde, the French-Guadeloupean author of I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem (1986), Segu (1987), A Season in Rihata (1988), […]

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus Turns 15: The Best Moments of a Modern Classic

chimamanda ngozi adichie - by ecrivain

“It wasn’t the first novel I wrote,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told the audience at the University of Nairobi, during her […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.