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Stomach flu. Again. I can’t figure out why it seems like this year, if there is a bug going around anywhere in this whole dang valley, I’m getting it. Unless it is what our pediatrician said, which is that I have small kids and can count on being sick more frequently in the next few years. But, they aren’t sick, knock wood. Sorry I’m writing about vomit again. I don’t think there will be any in the poem, if that helps. The puking has stopped and I napped for a few hours, so maybe this is done.

Yesterday a friend asked me about the pronunciation of Ostranenie (aw straw nen ee with a slight yeh at the end), and after some restless nausea dreams I got to thinking about it. We translate it at “defamiliarization”, or the process of making the familiar seem uncommon in order to draw attention to the perception of the familiar. Or, to “strange stuff up”, to use my own definition. Here’s a pretty good breakdown, on the site Hyperalleric.  There are more thinky breakdowns, from folks like Victor Shklovsky: “The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.” (Shklovsky, “Art as Technique”, 12), and he uses examples from Tolstoy that are pretty great, but I’m sick and not feeling particularly thinky. I guess the point is that the more you strange stuff up, the more distance it puts between the object and its viewer, which forces an imaginative act focused on the object as we grope our way back to understanding. Carl Ginz

So, now I’m going to try to make this common stomach virus Ostranenie, and then I’m going to bed.

Strange it Up

Waking after sweaty and restless writhing to nightmare pillowcases, we could be Jules Verne. The virus has purged from us the new, and we have time machined forward to now, from our dreams of gone centuries. Going to the kitchen for juice is a new mission. This room a station in a far future, with its lights and screens, blinking green eyes like robot eyes, tiny ones, its glare causes our mouths to grime over, and the bile to rise, the surface of this planet of home is ungraspable, the shock of the strange is spinning the kitchen round, the surfaces are too smooth, and it all threatens to rise because this world is too far gone from the bed upstairs and the weight of sick dreams, the nausea comes not from our insides, but from these rude and mute machines, but then the dirty toaster oven pulls us downward, the smell overcoming, here is the old white toaster oven, and we are here, we are back, in the kitchen, in the right time, and we are getting juice.

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Did it get strange enough? I don’t know if this counts as Ostranenie, but that is how the kitchen felt to me today. And now I have to go to bed. I wanted to include a picture of a dirty toaster oven, but turns out that people don’t take pictures of dirty toaster ovens unless they are REALLY dirty, and I don’t want Mom to think that ours is that dirty. Happy Sunday, poem friends.

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