Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

AFTERNOON WITH MOTEN: Note #2

SHARE THIS

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 September 20, 2011 at 12:12 am #

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

  2. admin September 20, 2011 at 2:43 am #

    @ 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

15 Pieces to Guide Your Understanding of Xenophobia in (South) Africa

xenophobia in south africa - photo by guillerme sartori for agence france press and getty images

Once again, this September, xenophobic violence was unleashed on other Africans, mostly Nigerians, in South Africa: businesses were closed, shops […]

Johary Ravaloson’s Return to the Enchanted Island Is the Second Novel from Madagascar to Be Translated into English

johary ravaloson - winds from elsewhere - graph (1)

In May 2018, we brought news of the first novel by a writer from Madagascar to be translated into English: […]

Sundays at Saint Steven’s | Davina Philomena Kawuma | Poetry

unsplash3

when god runs out of money (how, no one says) once a week, these days, we come to where the […]

Read the First Excerpt from Petina Gappah’s New Novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light

petina gappah - out of darkness, shining light - graph

Petina Gappah‘s new novel Out of Darkness, Shining Light was released on 10 September by Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner. […]

We Need To Talk | Muriel Adhiambo | Fiction

unsplash4

IT WAS A warm, humid night in the lakeside city of Kisumu. Under a starless sky, the women, seated on […]

For World Diabetes Day, Miss BloodSugar Calls for Entries to Competition & Anthology Sponsored by Bella Naija

mbs final edit

Press release: What’s your diabetes story? Are you diabetic? Have you been impacted by the experiences of a family/friend/patient with […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.