The Great Poem Series: David Trinidad´s ¨Black Telephone¨

The author of this great poem is David Trinidad. Trinidad was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1953. He has published books like “Plasticville” (2000), “Phoebe” 2002, “An essay in verse”, 2003, “The late show”, 2007. Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems”, 2011, “Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera” 2013 and “Notes on a Past Life”, 2016. They are all published by David Lehman, (the author of the book) and D.A. Powell by Turtle Point Press.

The “Black Telephone” really sticks out from most of the poems I have read within this book. It is different, but in a good way, the poem is not to hard to understand, unlike a lot of the poems which I extremely enjoyed. The issue it brings up is something most of us are not normally aware of, but, now looking back, has totally changed the way we communicate.

The first thing I look for in a poem to be able to have the ability to understand the context. The “Black Telephone” is easily understandable by me. It brings up a topic most poems don’t talk about; Technology.  

David Trinidad does a great job within his writing because he is able to convey what he is trying to say properly. Another important thing for a poem to be great is how he is able to show how the telephone was this huge invention in the 1860; then suddenly disappeared. It just turned into an anvil, an antique you can sell on ebay for a fortune but no longer has a function. This thing once was the greatest thing ever. It opened up everything, you could communicate with people far away without them having to wait a month for a letter you mailed to be delivered, thus, them having to wait another month, on top of that, for an answer. Once, this device connected everyone. Now has just “a web of dead roots”.

A factor I consider an important in a poem is that you shouldn’t always understand it after reading it only once. This poem took me a couple times to read and I really had to pin certain details down. I had to look deep into the different metaphors used, such as, how the black telephone is like an anvil. Just a heavy metal block with no purpose.

One of the points, in my opinion, is that you have to tell that this is a poem and not just a normal piece of writing. David Trinidad does a good job here, using different lyrical elements, and proving how this piece of writing is poetry rather than a straightforward essay. Within the poem, Trinidad writes: “This tar pit appliance, the distance it once miraculously bridged”. He uses the metaphor, “bridge” to explain how the telephone opened up a broad way of communication, proving that, distance was no longer a problem. “The frayed cord,” something that connected all the different wires in the telephone that made everything work, was the main part of what made this telephone so unique. When the cords got frayed, messed up, or tangled, the whole system became just “a web of dead roots”.

In a different point of view, the frayed cord that is known to be a metaphor, could be referred to the in more factual terms explaining the complicated wires from the telephone that always got frayed together, therefore, created many problems you then had to spend time solving.

You can make all sorts of conclusions of what the poet is trying to say, that is the great thing about poetry. Nothing you ever imagine or conclude is wrong. Poetry is supposed to broaden your mind and let yourself explore the possibilities of what the poem may or may not be stating.

David Trinidad got inspired to write about the telephone from a movie from the early 60’s called “Cash McCall”, where it is a close up photo of the black telephone. He wanted to write about that exact telephone from the 700 series that was available in Britain from 1959 to 1967. Trinidad found the telephone on Ebay and bought it for 65 british pounds, plus 30 for postage. And as Trinidad wrote: “It sits here on my desk, magical by association, and beautiful (to my mind) in its shiny black obsolescence”.

Overall, I liked this poem over the others because it told more of a story. It allowed me to think back into earlier time periods and connect to the wonderful world we have today. Living in such a high tech world now blocks out the history of what many don’t know or care to remember.

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