Circuit Diagrams of the Soul in Flight

Kinga Tóth – We Build a City (Knives, Forks and Spoons, 2020)

The language of engineering is musical. Things and parts. Objects and their labels. Words slotting into words like pipes into pipes, meaning running through them like water, like current.

Portion transfer sand 20

On land 50 in the tunnels concrete

The needlehead prepares the vectors

The planer prepares the ironframework

Pick up any manual on electronics, plumbing, industrial processes, and you can find a poetry in the occulted lines. A logic that surpasses sense. At once entirely concrete and yet, in terms of what it signifies for us, the uninformed reader, it is as abstract as theology, or French theory.

We Build a City is a new translation of Kinga Tóth’s collection Wir Bauen Eine Stadt (Parasitenpresse, 2019). Its poetry is that of the engineer. Pieces fall together in unexpected formations and unexpected grammars.

The dampers are iron rings the spring

Lets the stomach sound

In glassshop pharmacy

The doll creaks is unsettled

The doll is hungry and rattles

The city that Tóth’s speakers are building contains unusual elements. A whale, a Dublin mass, a moth and, as the collection opens, a woman. Laying the foundations, perhaps, or clearing the site, in preparation for the structure.

            Upper section of sending pipe

            Is welded to the cervical vertebra

            Sending facility opens the lower lens

The words are accompanied by Tóth’s graphics. These are rough, sketchy. Bare sheets of paper hammered by typewriter keys, unpronounceable words form, while vague suggestions of structure, gesture and detail are scratched in biro and ink.

These are not so much illustrations as accompaniments. Suggestive blueprints, elevations, circuit diagrams as ultimately indecipherable as the fabricated grammar of the poems.

There is something being built here but we do not know what it is. A celestial city, perhaps? A city of the soul? An attempt to square the circle? She uses the raw form of construction to transcend the constructed.

It reminds me of the writer Alan Burns, whose novel Celebrations used cut-up assembly diagrams to create new poetries. It also reminds me of Mayakovski, or what I think Mayakovski will be like before I go back and read him. Modernist. Futurist. A celebration of building as a dance for the glory of itself.

But it is also absolutely current. Here in Manchester, buildings are piling up ever higher, ever faster and are ever more disposable. Does anyone think these towers will last more than ten years? These are transient towers for transient populations. White boxes ascending and descending.

Our souls too are forever in construction. We are shaping ourselves for the future after the next one. As Tóth shows us, this is at once a madness and a magic. She shows us circuit diagrams for a modern life; indecipherable blueprints for forever-moving parts.

Zoe Islander-Bax

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