I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
– Billy Collins, Introduction to Poetry
The selections of “Out” celebrate the nuance of life, politics, and language, where readers are left looking for the colours of human connection. We often assume academic writing to be black and white, void of colour, emotion, or creativity, while creative writing full of colour and personality, emphasizing human connections. However, between the perceived black and white of academia, there is an entire haze of grey where all genres coexist, showcasing their similarities. It is where binaries become blurry as the spectrum of greyscale exists between the two sides. As Collins implies in “Introduction to Poetry,” sometimes finding answers requires squinting, searching, in the haze after lights have been turned “Out,” as your eyes start to adjust to your new perspective. Sometimes you must explore pieces from the inside out like a mouse, rummaging for less obvious connections. The selections of this chapter belong in “the inbetween,” in the grey, where they grapple with truth and disconnection, and rethink the stability of political, and linguistic systems.
The poems in “Out” illustrate the tension between creativity and colour as the authors’ paint disjunct scenes. MacDonald’s “Breakwater” struggles with the dichotomic definition of truth, expressing an exhaustion of binaries. MacDonald creates a mood of longing for a softer, more fluid, and more colourful existence. Similarly, Lamb’s “Paradise” depicts a neighbourhood that has lost its vibrancy as a result of its lack of human connections. The neighbourhood is void of relationships, diminished from a community of people to merely homes lining the streets.
The academic essays in this chapter exhibit the complexities of language and social and political structures, showing us the ambiguity (or greyness) of well-developed and complicated systems. Voigt’s “Faulty Foundations: Modern Foreign Aid Disenfranchisement and the Long Shadow of Modernization Theory” explores the disconnections of socio-political values between different cultures, which generate black and white, “Us vs. Them” mindsets. While the public’s mentality may be black and white, Voigt demonstrates greyness in how perceptions of the Modernization Theory have changed over time. Theories evolve and alter within different contexts; there is no one, stable, interpretation. Also in “the inbetween” is Jenson’s “A Retrospective: Time, Structure, and the Informal Segmentation of David Copperfield,” which analyzes the relationship of verb tenses and time, and language’s ability to warp time to make the past seem present when the narrator describes events. The ability of tenses to manipulate our perception of time between the binary of past and nonpast is indicative of the grey area in language.
“Out” is monochromatic, the grey area between black and white. Academia can be both logical, yet nuanced. Creativity can be emotional, yet stark. It is in the grey where the constraints of the binary — academic vs. creative — are muddled, where similarities surpass differences. It is in this chapter that the colours of connection can be found in the void of grey, in the haze between black and white, as though someone has turned the lights “Out.”