When Musa Okwonga asked me to write this piece he used forty-eight words. Forty-eight words came together to create a message. I replied to his message using twenty-five words. He replied again using thirteen words. That’s an eighty-six word conversation that has resulted in me typing this. Hearing the words of others and reading the words of others has made me write words and say words. Using words to communicate about this world that we have been born into is my favourite thing about being a part of the human race.
I feel lucky to have been born into a time when words are sat there waiting to be picked up and used. They can be written, said, shouted, whispered, mimed or sung at any time. We are allowed to put them in any order we like. It’s the freedom of words, how we say them, which ones we use and when we choose to say them that exhilarates me. I am forever excited by the fact that we continuously stand on a verbal knife-edge where people have got this bank of language to withdraw words from. Someone could come up to me tomorrow and say a sentence that changes my life forever. I was sat on the Victoria line recently and the man opposite me was wearing a T-shirt. Printed on the T-shirt were the words, “This T-shirt would look good on your bedroom floor.” I read it, and he saw me reading it, I continued to look at it, I then looked up to his face and he was shaking his head at me as if to say “No, this T-shirt is not aimed at you.” He was looking for somewhere to look and he looked to the person sat to my right and it was a five-year old girl, she was reading the message as well. Next to her was an Alsatian dog and the dog was reading it too. The man shut his eyes and put his head in his hands, all because of the words he chose to wear on his T-shirt.
I love the fact that it only takes a split second to say or write a word. Then it’s there, it lives. BOOM. Words let us build and create things in seconds. They are so quick. I want to sit down with a painter and say “Ok lets have a race, I will say “a field of poppies” and you paint a field of poppies and let’s see who is fastest. I saw a condom machine and someone had written on it “For refund insert baby.” Suddenly because someone had scribbled those four words with a permanent marker the condom machine became 100 percent more interesting than it was before. Those words constructed an image in my head at lightning speed.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a word paints ten million pictures. TREE. The images of trees that people would think of may be similiar, i.e the same species of tree, but the tree might be a different size or in a different season. Just by saying the word TREE people have an image painted in their head. You could say two words. Christmas tree. You could say three words. Burning Christmas tree. Four words. Fiercely burning Christmas tree. Five words. A fiercely burning Christmas tree. Six words. Climbing a fiercely burning Christmas tree. Seven Words. Jesus climbing a fiercely burning Christmas tree. Seven words and a personal picture appears in the head through words.
I am blown away by the fact that you can say the word diamond to someone and the person instantly thinks of their own personal diamond. Or as Tom Waits sings in the song ‘All The World Is Green’– “He is balancing a diamond on a blade of grass.” By putting ten words together in a certain order he has painted an image that gives the listener something they didn’t have before. A verbal present from him to the listener. The freedom of that process is like dancing. You can just do it. In any way you like. Whenever you like and it’s completely free to do. Nobody can tell you how to dance if you are enjoying your dancing.
I’ve written a few words now, some of them are in the wrong order, some of them are in the right order but could be in a better order. I could have used different words to talk about words but those are the words I chose.
Rob Auton has ideas and sees if other people like those ideas by writing them down, standing up on stage, and saying them out loud. You can hear his poetry here. He also runs the brilliant Bang Said The Gun night, and has a blog you can read here.