Rumpus Sound Takes: Share


Meg Baird
Seasons on Earth (Drag City)

“When you’re writing something original, you aren’t really being entirely original. There is so much intentional and unintentional stealing.”

–Meg Baird, Bad Vibes interview

“Share,” the third song on Meg Baird’s Seasons on Earth, contains within in its lyrics the following images: a blooming future; a “gray and / changeless sway”; the blues; the world; light; tears; Wilderland; and filthy brothers and swearing sisters, both of which appear approximately three to four times each, locking in the pocket a smile.

The song invokes a particular mood, a readiness to give. As in, I want to share this song with you; I hope you like it. Or, There was a boy; I shared his pain; I think I know the dark as well as he. If we draw a mind map here, a rhizomatic structure capturing our brains’ collective experiences, the word empathy might appear. Sympathy might appear. Compassionsolacekindness all might appear as nouns bound together by the letter S, the first letter in the title Seasons on Earth, a record by Meg Baird named after a long poem by Kenneth Koch. There are other things I do not wish to mention. There is a way of thinking about happiness in spite of the real suffering around me.

An empath is a person with the paranormal ability to understand others’ mental, physical, and emotional states. Try as I might, I am unable to describe the sensation of feeling maudlin with moments of light, nor am I able, without the help of the free encyclopedia, to pronounce the following: In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Rhovanion, or Wilderland is a large region of northern Middle-earth. This tidbit has been shared, signed with love. It is thereby a fact, an indisputable thing that undoubtedly still possesses some element of fiction. Is this a bad thing? No, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Writing these lines, an archaeology of my emotional remains, my body traverses uncomfortably along its own interior borders where so much is implicit—actions, words, and thoughts—which is to say, in the mind. In my mind, I am looking back, and it’s with an intensity of feeling that I look. I was born in 1986 and grew up an only child. What, my mind asks, will my future blues be? Art and its gimmicks, ashes in a jar, snow in the air betokened by great simplicity. To an only child, brothers and sisters are individuals beyond the context of one’s ancestral experiences. I, an only child, know many brothers and sisters, but our genealogies are not entwined. It is only in my imagination that I can have—or be—a sibling; the rest is a discovery to be made alone.

I want to ask someone to show me what is shared between brothers and sisters, thereby acknowledging my uneasy relationship to the world, and to words. I want to know: Will the themes of my life add to or detract from my lack of understanding, or will they escape me? To leave this world, to make it to the end, to go and sleep not too far from the dike: “The rest is just ordinary—embarrassing procrastination, obstacles—how time goes by so fast” (Meg Baird, Bad Vibes).

Some things I have shared, whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether selflessly or with selfish intent: A miniature mug labeled with my first name; the third-person ‘I’ point of view; the phrase to repetitively listen; my personal taste; my modesty sheath; words and phrases from the Brooklyn Museum’s Global Feminisms coffee table book; words and phrases from interviews with the Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama; words and phrases from Kenneth Koch’s long poem “Seasons on Earth,” quoted above; words and phrases from Meg Baird’s Seasons on Earth, also quoted above; words and phrases from personal letters, severed at the preposition; several innermost parts; bodies in sleep; pint-sized glasses advertising microbreweries—e.g., Victory, Great Lakes, etc.—all while intoxicated between the ages of 20-21; a plastic salt shaker; a pack of gum; Get Him ChromogenicBurialBoîte, Off to the Nervous Museum, The Short Sharp Life—all particular titles shared, taken back, then borrowed from myself.

Articulate is almost wholly embedded within the word particular, sans the letter E. Both words share Latin origins—articulate from articulus, referring to small connecting parts; particular from particula, or “small part.” When I refer to the overlaps between us, a pronoun employed to invoke two or more people, I am referring not to the personal experiences we so often attempt to narrate—and inevitably fail to communicate—using language. Rather, I am summoning an emotional echo, an inner reverberation, a psychological tremor, etc. Words, arguably, are mere representations of a person’s embodied experiences. They portray emotions and thus relay emotional qualities, but they are not emotional in and of themselves. As readers and listeners—persons who share—we project emotions upon everything we encounter, including language. Yet it goes without saying that language ≠ emotions. But what if it does? It is easy to become confused, to perceive our emotions as shared.

When I began to imagine this text, I intended to write about more than sharing. I intended to write about Meg Baird’s Seasons on Earth. But despite my better efforts, my mind continues to return to the word share and thus to the song “Share,” as if there’s something to discover about (or above, around, beyond, within, etc.) this five-letter conceptual apparatus, something embedded within the guitar’s hollow body or the song’s steely inclinations. As Baird sings on the album’s final lyric, “The words that come first are the best to offer up.”

And so I write this essay with the hope of sharing. And as I share music with you, my hope is that you too will listen and locate some trace of your mood, your inner mind, your particular state of experience so we better understand (whether consciously or unconsciously) our mutual feelings, identifying overlaps. The rest—the blooming future—is yet to come.

Signed with love from,

Claire Donato's first book, Burial, is forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky Press. She holds an MFA in Literary Arts (Poetry) from Brown University, where she won the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction. Recent writing has appeared or is forthcoming in LIT, 1913: a journal of forms, Evening Will Come, Octopus, and BOMBlog. With Jeff T. Johnson, she collaborates on SPECIAL AMERICA, an ongoing digitally mediated performance with elements of institutional critique, radical appropriation, song and dance. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and currently teaches at Fordham University in the Bronx. Her hometown is Pittsburgh, PA. More from this author →