In this week’s edition of Feature Friday we are excited to bring you an excerpt from Michael Nardone’s book-length poem and the first in a series of planned works on the sonic topography of North America, The Ritualites. Composed at sites all across the continent—from Far Rockaway to the Olympic Peninsula, Great Bear Lake to the Gulf of California—the book documents the poet’s listening amid our public exchanges, mediated ambiances, and itinerant intimacies.
Divya Victor, author of Kith says, “the book orchestrates unlikely and compelling movements between abstracted, parodic narrative and lyric elegy, which Nardone writes as modulated, cerebral laments for an era’s failure to reach utopia.” Author Jordan Scott calls The Ritualites “a spellbinding collection of North America’s sonic architecture and Nardone is a poet of its topologies, listening to the air when the body stops.”
The Ritualites is a series of linguistic rituals that shift, page to page, through a range of forms and genres—a rhapsodic text for occasional singing and a best-selling thriller, a self-help guide and sabotage manual, a score for solo performance and a cacophony of voices.
We hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Ritualites. Happy reading!
From The Ritualites:
TO WHOMEVER FINDS THIS NOTE
A tiny kitten sits next to me. Watching.
A dog barks. The birds gather on the
telephone wires. Let all the story of this
People Temple be told. Let all the books be
Consider the alternative state in which you now reside.
Take a big deep breath.
It’s no accident you are holding this book.
Every event we experience and every person we meet has been put in
our path for a reason.
This is a social world, and you are a social animal.
So don’t just read this book.
Interact with it!
Underline your favorite passages!
Make this book your book.
Try writing your own thoughts in the margins.
We were in the early years of a long struggle.
Our way of life, our very freedom, had come under attack.
Who did this?
I looked at the faces of the children in front of me.
I heard people yelling my name.
For months I had been praying that God would show me how to
better reflect His will.
As you read this book, try to stand apart from your self.
You are not your feelings.
You are not your thoughts.
As you read this, notice what information you receive, and by notice
I mean: simply observe.
You deserve to feel great about your life.
Try to project your consciousness into the corner of this room and
see yourself, there, in your mind’s eye, reading this book.
Can you see yourself almost as though you were someone else?
I looked out on an abandoned, locked-down Washington.
The moon and the stars and the planets had all fallen onto me.
We were standing in the middle of a whirlwind.
Who am I, that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of
There’s only one person in the world like you.
You are the totality of the universe acting through a human nervous
Everything you did before this moment has no reality.
You hear the voices of a clamoring chorus inside your head.
It happens in a context called the world.
Inner life depends on thousands of signals coming into it.
Adopting children through the mail can be an extremely positive
You must keep your focus on the here and now.
Only what you are doing in this moment, only this, is real
You must help You.
Life is a competition. They are keeping score. There is a time clock.
Give up your goals.
Think of your life as the game board of this book.
You can relax now.
You are in a glorious moment filled with possibility.
I had a philosophy I wanted to advance.
I thought of the lyrics from one of my favorite hymns, “God of Grace
and God of Glory”: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing
of this hour.”
I took a look at the list of techniques.
Was I willing to forgo my anonymity forever?
I fought back tears.
I christened our plane Great Expectations.
There would be time later to mourn.
If you want to be a pilot, you must control the machine and not let it
A few minutes later I felt the plane bank hard to the west.
I hugged the flight attendants and assured them that everything
would be okay.
Order your copy of The Ritualites here.
Michael Nardone is the author of The Ritualites (2018) and Transaction Record (2014). He is a postdoctoral fellow in the département des littératures de langue française at the Université de Montréal, and an affiliated faculty member at the Centre for Expanded Poetics, Concordia University. Born in Pennsylvania, Nardone has lived and worked in Boston, Varanasi, Berlin, and Yellowknife. His writings, dialogues, and editorial projects have been published widely and are archived at http://soundobject.net. He lives in Montreal.