Breathing’s for the Meek?

Lovely satirical poem in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s The Sirens of Titan:

Break every link with air and mist,
Seal every open vent;
Make throat as tight as miser’s fist,
Keep life within you pent.
Breathe out, breathe in, no more, no more,
For breathing’s for the meek;
And when in deathly space we soar,
Be careful not to speak.
If you with grief or joy are rapt,
Just signal with a tear;
To soul and heart withing you trapped
Add speech and atmosphere.
Every man’s an island as in
lifeless space we roam.
Yes, every man’s an island:
island fortress, island home.

From Kurt Vonnegut Jr., The Sirens of Titan (New York: Delta, 1971), 152-53.

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6 Responses to “Breathing’s for the Meek?”

  1. Jeb Says:

    It is seriously nice. I get an image of a penguin filled isle. Classic error of inexperienced performers, body becomes stressed, throat constricts, so you get a weird croaking sound and stress in the upper body pins your arms to the side, leaving you only with ability to signal using the lower arm in a distinctive flapping style motion.

    It’s termed penguin acting.

  2. The Necromancer Says:

    @Jeb: Penguin acting. Love it. That whole breathing and performance connection deepens. Reminds me I need to get back to that project…Thanks for the awesome comment!

  3. Jeb Says:

    If you want to watch out for it. Simple and classic indicator of poor technique — stress lines on forehead.

  4. The Necromancer Says:

    @Jeb: Cool…Love the terminology: “Can’t penguin act your way through life!”

  5. Jeb Says:

    I watched an interview with an academic attempting to launch a wider campaign on ‘mindfulness’ as a school activity. Swallowed the sociology 101 text book with a terrible emphasis on the ‘worthy’ aspects. Theatre has a distinctive teaching tradition, not big on terms but they are memorable, pleasing and based on serious and accurate observation.

    The emphasis should be on fun here I think.

  6. The Necromancer Says:

    @Jeb: Always a bit scary when I hear of the mindfulness stuff being institutionalized, because that definitely kills the fun. At the same time, it is worthy of wider attention…Delicate balance there, I think.

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