‘Forty-nine thousand acres of nothing but scenery and statues. I’m lonesome.’
Xanadu is a vision of paradise on earth. But it isn’t a natural paradise, the edenic greenery we imagine at the beginning of things, if everything was stripped back. Xanadu must be built. It is artificial. A deliberate illusion, a pictured ideal, imposed onto and walled off from the muddle of reality. It is a paradox: escape by way of enclosure. Isolated. Exclusive.
Xanadu is not there to be found: it is in the hands of those with the means to bring it into being for themselves. It is a toy in the game of playing god. Xanadu isn’t really a paradise, but a picture – a model – of paradise. As such it’s an object, and something to claim, control, own.
If you want a perfect vision of the world, you need to frame it, to put a border between perfection and the rest, to snow-globe it under glass. Our world is a labyrinth of these frames – architectural, photography, ideological – mirrored hallways performing pictures of forever, and lonely bodies bumping up against the walls.
Xanadu tries to make eternity ‘actual’ – that is, material – something you can walk around in, feel beneath your feet, hold in your hand. It is the future dreaming of the past, the past dreaming of the future, and both shutting the window on the changeful, mortalizing weather of now. Xanadu is where we discover and where we ignore that every palace we build for pleasure is a mausoleum.
Xanadu is a house of statues, a walled garden, a dream come ‘true’. Xanadu is the everything you’ve ever wanted that will never be enough. Most of all Xanadu is a vault, a tower without a door, a locket around your neck, where you’re trying to keep, to lock up, everything you’ve already lost.
Abridged is exploring the failure of the worlds we create for ourselves, the walls we put up and the disintegration of our self-image and any semblance of self-awareness. We are looking for poetry for our Xanadu issue. You may send to firstname.lastname@example.org up to three poems in Word or similar format. The deadline is 14th February 2022. Please put your name on all submissions otherwise we may think it’s spam.
Image by Jake Eshelman: https://jakeeshelman.com/Heisykha
This issue is in collaboration with the Belfast Photo Festival.
Abridged is supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The Arts Council of Ireland.