Cursed for knowing the power of her voice to influence the actions of others, Echo is left without the ability to speak what she feels in her ‘own’ words. She may only speak when spoken to, repeat fragments, search for her meaning in inherited speech. It is difficult and lonely. When Echo falls for Narcissus, she must speak herself in his words repurposed, reinterpreted, in a desperate attempt to make herself heard, to reach out and touch. Everything said of love is full of loss, of what she cannot say. Her loss of Narcissus, who refuses her, is an echoing of the loss inherent in her speech, in her impossible, fragmented, empty, returning expression. And it is echoed in the loss of her body. For lack of touch, cut away from intimacy and intercourse, hidden in the dark of a cave, her body fades, eaten up by desire. All that remains is her voice, silent until discovered, found only in the voices of others. It is a voice with the memory of a body. 

Echo’s story is one we tell ourselves to explain the feeling of calling down empty passageways. It’s a story about communication and touch. It recalls the frustrations of language (and other codes), its slippery inexactitude, how it is always inherited, how it is all we have, how it resists our complete control, the persistent echo of the unspeakable… but also its dark depths, how so many meanings hide in the same words and phrases (silent until discovered), how repetition is never repetition, how it breaks down and we might hear ourselves in the cracks. Echo’s is a story about how our struggles with language intertwine with the struggles of our bodies, isolation, intimacy, touching and not touching, what’s between us and others. 

And in this age of digital communication, algorithms, emojis, hashtags, screens, AI, the internet of things, bodiless voices, the fading of touch, and increasing physical isolation (which began long before the ongoing pandemic), her echoes are amplifying.

Abridged is looking for poetry and/or art, video, sound exploring the failure of words, of voice, of communication, our love of our echoed opinion, the comfort of our ‘bubbled’ desire and the loss of nuance. You can send up to four poems in Word (or similar) format. Art can be in any format though videos should be connected to Youtube, Vimeo etc. The deadline is 10th July 2020. Send submissions to abridged@ymail.com and please put your name in the body of the email otherwise it may be mistaken for spam.

Image by Gail Mahon: https://gailmahon.com/home.html

Abridged is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland