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Beyond Poetry

Ray Hsu

For Yana

I sometimes think to myself that it'd be nice to be able to spend time with people and not have to use words. My friend (who died by suicide) and I used to work on machines that would read our brain waves. We hoped that they would allow us to communicate without needing to figure out words. In the end, though, we couldn't escape needing words: even the things we call "emotions" are shaped by the words we use and we couldn't collect the data we needed without resorting to those words.

We co-founded a company that was a sheep in wolf's clothing. We wanted to wear a cartoonish kind of capitalism, as if we distant enough from the real thing. I had left the non-profit world long ago having seen the blood, sweat, and oppression that gets idealized away by those who have never been part of it. I didn't have the luxury of distance and never wanted to inflict that on others ever again.

It's hard to figure out the right form–whether as a poet or as an organizer–for the ideas we want to advance in the world: it seemed to me like every form normalizes exploitation. That's most clear in organizations, but perhaps harder to spot in what we consider to be the art.

I don't mind grasping for words, which sometimes means grasping for a long time in a rambly, messy way. I think about my lost friend, perched cartoonishly on my shoulder, as part of my own messy grasping over time for a form that will feel "enough," that will do justice. I grasp by writing and deleting so that whatever comes out is not-quite-right (yet). Grasping sometimes feels like the thing and sometimes it doesn't.

We share overlapping things. Not all of us, certainly: looking for something that we all share inevitably means that we fail to recognize the existence of some. But whatever we need to share for now gives us a place to start and whatever dotted lines we can draw can cross less dotted borders, as they have for our collective. What we have now, in our attempt to draw some sort of dotted line around us, is promisingly vague and non-committal enough.

Our worlds falls apart and that makes survival hard. We're constantly in a state of being dehumanized differently as well as in ways we share, even temporarily. Most of our lives never count enough. Sometimes being illegible is being left to die.


Ray Hsu

Ray Hsu

Ray Hsu is co-founder of Phare, which aims to make therapy more accessible for everyone.

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