‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary – “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Culture Digest - 04 Jun 2018

‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary

The poet on the ‘strange portability’ of life on the road 

By Elaine Kahn

‘Don’t say “What”’, the customs agent barks at me through the plexiglass membrane dividing France from the UK. I hadn’t made out his question and now I’m frozen in the face of this unexpected puzzle. What do I say besides ‘what?’

‘I’m sorry,’ I say, carefully, ‘Could you repeat the question?’ I’m in Paris, waiting to board the Eurostar, sweating under the weight of two heavy bags and the knowledge that I have a weed pen stashed among my toiletries. 

‘Are you travelling for work?’ he asks, annoyed.

No. Say no.This is like, the one thing I know – if at all possible, avoid saying you are traveling for work.‘Sort of? I mean ... I’m a writer.’ Ugh.

‘Don’t say “soowrt of,”’ he scolds, mimicking my nasally American O. My whole face starts to burn. 


‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Dalston, 2018. Courtesy: the writer

‘Sorry. It’s just … I’m a poet? It’s hard to tell when I’m working and when I’m not.’ Shhh … ‘I’m not being paid.’ Finally, with this lie, I am able to be definitive. He asks a few more questions and then reluctantly allows me to pass. Welcome to the United Kingdom. 

I’ve been in Paris for a week, where I was also soowrt of working. What counts as work when you’re a poet? If the answer is ‘writing a poem’, I have some reevaluating to do. But I don’t think that is the answer.

The trip from Paris to London is 2.5 hours. I should look out the window, but instead I watch The Girlfriend Experience (2016–ongoing) on my laptop and take photos of myself. I eat hunks of apple and cheese sliced with a broken plastic knife I found in my backpack. I’m a poet. And then, I’m in London. 

I’m to stay here for the month, maybe longer. Life has developed a strange portability over the last few years; I give readings and teach workshops wherever I happen to be and so I can be anywhere. It’s amazing and I feel lucky and I do not take time off.  

My first event in London is a group reading with Kevin Coval, Safia Elhillo, Glyn Maxwell, Richard Scott and my friend Holly Pester. It’s been put on by The Poetry School, where I’ll be teaching, and is held at The Canada Water Theatre. When I read, the spotlight is so bright the glare coming off my cheekbones keeps distracting me. Is this why football players paint those stripes under their eyes? Group readings can be tricky, but this a good one.


‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Elaine and Ariana, 2018. Courtesy: the writer

Afterwards, Holly and I get Indian food with my friends Eleanor Catton and Steven Toussaint, both of whom have come down from Cambridge. We went to school together in Iowa City, US and now we’re all in the UK. It’s funny to be in the same place, so far from where we first met, but it’s not altogether surprising. Ellie and Steve remind me of the time we passed each other going opposite directions on moving walkways in the San Francisco Airport. ‘You just went “Shut. Up”,’ Ellie says. It sounds like me, though I can’t totally recall if I said that or not. I think travelling messes up your memory, there’s no straight-line to hang a narrative around. Like tonight – there’s no real logic to what is ‘foreign’ about anything that’s happening. Although, I notice that the samosas in England are different from samosas in the US. I think they’re not as good, but that’s probably because the main quality I look for in food is familiarity.  

Saturday, I teach my class, arriving back in Canada Water with a heavy suitcase and bags under my eyes. I’d woken in a panic around 4am, suddenly convinced there’d be no printer at the school and all my planned activities would flop. But, of course, there is. Class goes well, and then I hustle to King’s Cross Station to meet Holly. We’re taking the train to Edinburgh, and then Glasgow, for an event organized by the University there. In Edinburgh we are soowrt of working, but in Glasgow we are definitely working. 

We get in late and thread our way through throngs of partiers just to get out of the station. The Edinburgh weekend vibe is much frattier than I’d expected, weirdly reminding me of Iowa City. They’re both college towns. Holly and I make it to our hotel just in time to catch the end of Eurovision, a phenomenon I have never even heard of and am absolutely fascinated by. Holly tries to explain, but she cannot answer my question as to why Australia and Israel are participating. 


‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Elaine Kahn reading, 2018. Courtesy: the writer

The next morning we’re up early. The hotel messed up our room – one double bed instead of two singles – so we’ve been granted a complimentary meal. Totally worth it, we agree, over bites of baked beans and potato scones. ‘Potato scones are like the samosas in America,’ I observe, pleased.  

We spend the rest of the day wandering. After a brief, hectic pass through the tourist area surrounding Edinburgh Castle (we make it as far as the pay wall before deciding probably just looking at the castle is enough), we board a bus to Portobello Beach, where we drink tea on the promenade and then split up to go do work in separate parts of town. Technically, this is our first time travelling together, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve stayed with Holly in London and she’s stayed with me in Los Angeles, where I live, and we quickly developed the kind of comfortable, low-stress friendship of two people who like to be alone. 


‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Ariana & Sylvia Plath, 2018. Courtesy: the writer

I walk to the beach and drop onto the sand. I’m working on a poem. I cross out words and write them down again and cross them out until I’m so frustrated I want to throw it all into the sea. Sometimes working on a poem feels like trying to explain a dream to someone; halfway through you realize you don’t really know where any of it is leading or why you started talking about it in the first place, yet you are compelled to carry on. I’ve been trying to explain this particular poem for about four years. 

We arrive in Glasgow that evening and check into our hotel. We have separate rooms here because the University is paying, an occurrence that will never stop delighting me. It’s late, but still light out, so Holly goes to find a place to work – she’s got an abstract due. I lay in bed, staring out the window. I am tired. Someone told me once that when you’re on a boat, everything is harder because you have to expend lots of energy just to keep your balance. I think all traveling is like this. I realize it is Mothers’ Day and so I call my mom. I can’t believe I get to come to Glasgow just because I’m a poet, I tell her. She agrees. 

The next day Holly and I walk across campus to The Poetry Club where we meet Colin Herd, who organized our reading. It’s a great space and Holly reads some amazing work I’ve never heard before. She’s incredible – one of those performers who really takes you with her using not only language but voice and breath and body; a dip of the head, a stuttering pause. The reading ends, and we go get Indian food, again. It’s really good, but still not exactly what I crave. I’ve got part of Holly’s poem stuck in my head. I shouldn’t have expected it to happen all at once / but I was told to expect it to happen all at once.


‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Class at Poetry School, 2018. Courtesy: the writer 

Back in London, I go to Soho for the opening of Cameron Jamie’s show at Kamel Mennour. It’s funny to think of Soho as being in London, not New York, but they’re actually pretty similar. Cameron’s show is gorgeous – his ceramics remind me of the sacred tablets of some alien religion, or maybe the impression made by tracking human eye movement as it stares over the ocean. There’s a large sculpture in the center of the room and I overhear someone say that it seems phallic, but I only think of a Jack Spicer poem: So the heart breaks / Into small shadows / Almost so random / They are meaningless / Like a diamond / Has at the centre of it a diamond / Or a rock / Rock.  At the dinner afterwards, I’m seated next to Charlie Fox, a London writer who has just been in New York. I hate New York, I might have said, or maybe I didn’t. We talk about jet lag and drink amaretto and eat, like, six different kinds of dessert. I love dessert.

I catch the last train home and use the hour-long ride to update my CV. I send it to Pomona, where I’m teaching in the fall, and then I check in with my person subleasing my house. She tells me that my cats are low on food, so I order some. I don’t actually know the next time I’ll be living with them. When I get back to LA, I will be staying a friend’s place for at least a month. Maybe two. Maybe three. I miss my apartment, but I don’t miss paying rent.*


‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记

Porotbello Beach, 2018. Courtesy: the writer

The next day I’m reading with Ariana Reines and Meryl Pugh at the Poetry Society. Ariana reads first and then A.N. Devers brings up a skirt formerly owned by Sylvia Plath and drapes it over the reading stand. I feel like I am watching a moment in literary history, only I’m not sure if what happens now will ever be history. Who knows. 

When it’s my turn to read I’m feeling strange and outside myself. I haven’t been sleeping much and could probably use some actual nutrients. I decide to read a brand-new piece. It’s short and makes me feel shitty so I read it over and over until I’m snapped back into my body. One time, Trisha Low asked me to slap her across the face before a reading. It’s like that. 

Afterwards, Ariana tells me, Every time I see you I get the feeling you’re completely indestructible and that it’s tiring. I’m still thinking about it, which is sort of the normal effect of spending time with Ariana. We try to remember where and when we first met. New York? Northampton? We got cheeseburgers. I was bleeding. That was the night I met that guy. In any case it was a long time ago. A lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same. We’re poets, we can do anything we want! We marvel at this, laughing. Holly messages from Romania. She’s performing in the Bucharest International Poetry festival. How did it go, she says. How did it go, I say. She’ll be back tomorrow. We can do anything we want. We’re going to go get Indian food. 

Main image: On the train to Edinburgh. 2018. Courtesy: the writer

Elaine Kahn

Elaine Kahn is a poet. 

Elaine Kahn
Poetry Society
Cameron Jamie
Kamel Mennour

文化文摘- 04君2018“我觉得你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的巡回日记,诗人在路上的“奇怪便携性”的Elaine Kahn“不要说“什么”,海关代理人通过把法国和英国隔开的有机玻璃对我吠叫。我还没有提出他的问题,现在我面对这个意想不到的难题被冻结了。除了“什么”之外,我还能说什么?“对不起,”我小心翼翼地说,“你能重复一下这个问题吗?”我在巴黎,等待登上欧洲之星,在两个沉重的袋子的重压下汗流浃背,我知道我的盥洗室里有一支杂草笔。他生气地问。不,不,这是,我知道的一件事——如果可能的话,不要说你要去上班。我的意思是…我是个作家。“不要说,”“他说,”他骂道,模仿我的鼻音,“我的整个脸开始燃烧。”达尔斯顿.JPG ‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记多尔斯顿,2018。礼貌:作者抱歉。只是……我是诗人?很难说我什么时候工作,什么时候不工作。“嘘……‘我没有得到报酬。’最后,有了这个谎言,我就可以确定了。”他又问了几个问题,然后勉强地让我通过。欢迎来到英国。我在巴黎呆了一个星期,我也在那里工作。当你是诗人的时候,什么才算是工作?如果答案是“写一首诗”,我有一些重新评价。但我不认为这就是答案。从巴黎到伦敦的旅程是2.5小时。我应该往窗外看,但我会在我的笔记本电脑上看到女朋友的经历(2016—正在进行中),然后自己拍照。我吃了一大堆苹果和奶酪,我在背包里发现了一把破损的塑料刀。我是一个诗人。然后,我在伦敦。我要在这里呆上一个月,也许更长。在过去的几年里,生活发展了一种奇怪的便携性,我给阅读和讲习班,无论我碰巧在哪里,我都可以在任何地方。这真是太棒了,我很幸运,我不休息。我在伦敦的第一个活动是与Kevin Coval、Safia Elhillo、Glyn Maxwell、Richard Scott和我的朋友Holly Pester一起阅读。它是由我在加拿大的水剧院举行的诗派学校教的。当我阅读时,聚光灯是如此明亮,我的颧骨上的眩光不断分散我的注意力。这就是足球运动员为什么在眼睛下面画条纹的原因吗?小组阅读可能是棘手的,但这是一个很好的。ELANEANDANARANA JPG WPA6022602IMG伊莲和艾尔亚奈,2018。礼貌:作者之后,Holly和我和我的朋友埃莉诺·卡顿和Steven Toussaint一起吃了印度菜,他们都从剑桥下来了。我们一起在美国艾奥瓦城上学,现在我们都在英国。在我们第一次见面的地方,在同一个地方很有趣,但这并不完全令人惊讶。艾莉和史提夫让我想起了我们在三藩机场的人行道上相向而行的时间。“你刚刚走了。”“上”,艾莉说。这听起来像我,但我不能完全记得,如果我说的或不。我认为旅行扰乱了你的记忆,没有一条直线可以挂在你的周围。就像今晚一样,对于发生的任何事情,都没有真正的逻辑。虽然,我注意到英国的萨摩萨与美国的萨摩萨不同。我认为它们没有那么好,但这大概是因为我在食物中寻找的主要品质是熟悉。星期六,我教我的班,回到加拿大的水,一个沉重的手提箱和我的眼睛袋。我在凌晨4点惊慌失措,突然确信学校里没有打印机,我所有的计划活动都会失败。但是,当然,确实存在。上课很顺利,然后我去国王十字车站去接Holly。我们坐火车去爱丁堡,然后去格拉斯哥,参加那里的大学组织的活动。在爱丁堡,我们不工作,但在格拉斯哥,我们确实在工作。我们迟到了,穿过人群,走出车站。爱丁堡周末的气氛比我想象中的多,奇怪地提醒我艾奥瓦城。他们都是大学城。Holly和我及时赶到酒店,赶上了欧洲电视台的尾声,这是一个我从未听说过的现象,我非常着迷。霍利试图解释,但她不能回答我的问题,为什么澳大利亚和以色列正在参与。ELaNeReaDePePrTeRealStudio。JPG WPAP6023 602IMG伊莲KAN阅读,2018。礼貌:作者第二天早上我们起得很早。酒店把我们的房间弄得一团糟——一张双人床,而不是两张单人床——所以我们得到了一顿免费的饭菜。“土豆烤饼就像美国的萨摩莎,”我高兴地看着。我们一整天都在闲逛。经过一个短暂的,繁忙的通过爱丁堡城堡周围的旅游区(我们把它一直到收费墙,然后决定,只是看在城堡)就够了,我们登上一辆公共汽车到波托贝洛海滩,我们在长廊喝茶,然后分开去做单独的工作。城市艺术从技术上讲,这是我们第一次一起旅行,但感觉不太好。我在伦敦和Holly住在一起,她和我住在洛杉矶,我住在那里,我们很快就培养了两个喜欢独处的人的舒适、低压力的友谊。阿特,2018岁。礼貌:作家我走到海滩,掉到沙滩上。我正在写一首诗。我把单词划掉再写下来,直到我感到沮丧,我想把它们全部扔进大海。有时写一首诗感觉就像是在向某人解释一个梦;半途而废的时候,你意识到你并不真正知道它在哪里,或者你为什么开始谈论它,但是你不得不继续下去。我一直试图解释这首诗大约四年。我们晚上到达格拉斯哥,入住我们的酒店。我们这里有独立的房间,因为大学在支付,这一事件永远不会停止让我高兴。时间已经很晚了,但是仍然亮着,所以Holly去找个地方工作——她有一个摘要。我躺在床上,凝视着窗外。我累了。有人曾经告诉我,当你在船上时,一切都会变得更困难,因为你必须消耗大量的能量来保持平衡。我认为所有的旅行都是这样的。我知道这是母亲节,所以我打电话给我妈妈。我不敢相信我能来格拉斯哥只是因为我是诗人,我告诉她。她同意了。第二天,我和霍利穿过校园去了诗歌俱乐部,在那里我们见到了Colin Herd,他组织了我们的阅读。这是一个很棒的空间,冬青看到了我从未听说过的令人惊叹的作品。她是一个令人难以置信的表演者之一,真的把你和她一起,不仅用语言,而且用声音、呼吸和身体;一个低沉的脑袋,一个口吃的停顿。读完了,我们再去吃印度菜。这真的很好,但仍然不是我所渴望的。我把Holly的诗的一部分卡在脑子里了。我不应该一下子就想到它会发生。JPG ‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记班在诗歌学校,2018。礼貌:作者回到伦敦,我去SoHo区为Cameron Jamie在Kamel Mennour的演出开幕。SoHo区被认为是在伦敦,而不是纽约,这很有趣,但它们实际上非常相似。卡梅伦的表演很华丽——他的陶瓷让我想起了一些外来宗教的神圣药片,或者也许是在凝视海洋时通过追踪人眼运动所产生的印象。在房间的中央有一个大雕塑,我无意中听到有人说它看起来像阳具,但我只想到一首Jack Spicer的诗:“所以,心碎了/变成了小阴影/几乎是随机的/毫无意义的,像钻石一样,在它的中心有一颗钻石或一块岩石/ Rock。在晚餐之后,我坐在Charlie Fox旁边,一位刚到纽约的伦敦作家。我恨纽约,我可能说过,也许我没有。我们谈论时差,喝芳津杏仁,吃,比如六种不同的甜点。我喜欢甜点。我赶回家的最后一班火车,用一小时的车程更新我的简历。我把它送到Pomona,在秋天我在那里教书,然后我和我的人签租借我的房子。她告诉我,我的猫食物不足,所以我点了一些。我真的不知道下次我会和他们住在一起。当我回到LA的时候,我会在一个朋友的地方呆上至少一个月。也许两个。大概三岁吧。我错过了我的公寓,但我不想付房租。*波托贝洛贝克。JPG ‘I Get the Feeling You’re Completely Indestructible’: Elaine Kahn’s Tour Diary - “我感觉你是完全不可摧毁的”:Elaine Kahn的旅游日记波洛贝洛海滩,2018。礼貌:第二天,我和Ariana Reines和Meryl Pugh在诗歌协会读书。Ariana先读,然后A.N. Devers提起一条以前由西尔维娅·普拉斯拥有的裙子,然后把它披在阅读台上。我觉得我在看文学史上的一个片刻,只是我不确定现在发生的事情是否永远都是历史。谁知道。当轮到我读的时候,我感到奇怪,在我自己之外。我没有睡过多,可能会使用一些实际的营养素。我决定读一篇全新的文章。它很短,让我觉得很难受,所以我读了


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