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Redefining the Everyday: Southern Indiana Review on 'Litany for the City'

Ryan Teitman invites readers to challenge assumptions in his collection Litany for the City. According to Anthony Rintala of Southern Indiana Review, "the simple, stubborn act of repetition narcotizes thought. The obsession endlessly mouthed loses all sense and the chant of prayer, strung together like beads, becomes an arrhythmia of consonant stops without connotation, cognition, or coherence—clacks of sound on a dumb ear.” He elaborates: "Poets have long dabbled with the effects of this semantic satiation, the temporary numbness to ear and mind of a familiar word or phrase repeated too often." This reconsideration of and re-construction of language is exactly what Teitman tackles in Litany for the City. Teitman not only redefines cities, he also examines other territory: "Ultimately, the cabinet of things swallowed becomes the human body, built entirely of what it has eaten, blessed and cursed by each addition." Every experience, every perspective, every exposure to a particular place or object holds specific meaning to specific individuals. We are walking mosaics of what we have encountered, and how we have processed these encounters. It seems impossible to "erase the boundaries between other objects" because an object always has a human association with something else. "Things are changed by how they are used," Rintala begins, "Even the hot breath of a resolute sigh, trapped under a blanket at the moment of waking transforms into a 'coat of warmth / that I knew could / never fray.'" Teitman plays with our understanding of language by observing objects as inextricably tied to human use and perception. How any one thing is defined varies, due to the personal basis in which these definitions are formed. How we come to know and interpret an object constructs its meaning. Through his use of repetition, dismantling, and rebuilding, Teitman invites us to take an objective look at language, in order to grasp the foundation of its subjectivity. Teitman's ability to stand back and observe the dynamics between objects and people - to observe language - allows him to create a riveting piece of work that speaks to all of us, as it questions the assumptions of everyday life.


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