Half a lifetime ago the words “a/s/l” meant something to me – the start of a conversation with someone halfway across the world with whom perhaps you shared a desire for escapism.
But that was half a lifetime ago in the first iteration of the MSN chatrooms with its first attempts at keeping teens like me safe. It was the time of xanga, of dreamwave accounts, of thousands of girls learning to code in html so they could build websites for their favourites in boybands (a massive underground feminist triumph if there ever was one at getting girls interested in technology).
And escapism, choice, sexuality and expression are all bound up, somewhat nostalgically for me in Maree Dawes’ prose poetry offering: BRB.
In quick words on a page she outlines the housewife left behind with kids, alone with a computer and a connection, making her first foray into chatting and getting caught up in cybersex as a substitute for the sex she isn’t getting from her ever business trip taking husband.
Such is the obsession that as with this fallible narrator, we see nothing of her children and almost nothing of her husband, real life for her all but pushed out to the edges as she changes her username over and over and blinds us with a plethora of usernames for her cybersex partners. So much so that it is a direct downloaded experience from the narrator’s head to yours with no guide or index to clue you in as to who is who.
The poetry follows the pattern you would expect. In chatrooms people talk over each other, responses ordered by lag and bandwidth speed, not by logic and conversation, often punctuated by gestures and the logging in and out of users as they flag and revive.
Many will see this work as a reminder of how the internet can split up a family, change a life. But what it actually is, is a reminder that if you and your partner cannot give each other what you each need, we are geared as humans to fulfill those needs elsewhere.
Whatever odd form that might take, in the online world or the real one.
Author: Maree Dawes
Publisher: Spineless Wonders
Publication Date: 2013