An eye rhyme happens when two words look the same but are pronounced differently, as with love and cove. Eye Rhymes is an exhibition that explores similar moments of twinship, divergence, and deception that occur through material.
Exhibition essay "love's moves" by Heather White
Documentation by Yuula Benivolski
Eye rhymes snap when spoken. They split and pop. The eye catches a connection, but something changes on the way out the mouth: the pair comes apart. The promise breaks. Something’s released. Aloud, love is much less like move than the shapes of the words on paper suggested. Difference erupts on the tongue.
The eyes aren’t wrong. Love did rhyme with move, centuries ago. Then the sound of one o (love’s) shifted. The shared shape ove remembers a shared sound, and the eyes see that. They see how it used to be; they see the initial nearness, now past. The revision that happens between eye and mouth is history abbreviated in the body. It’s the slow growing apart, sped up to fit the time between seeing and saying. For these words, seeing is then and saying is now.
Here, we learn that rhymes can happen – or stop happening – between more than just words. Rhyme is a resonance we feel when something new is disproportionately familiar. A fit, a click, a ring. It can happen between words, between things, between people. In none of these cases does the rhyme promise to not distort.
In the Grace Paley story called Love, a poet walks around reviewing a rhyme (“light, white”) when she spots (“with my outside eyes”) an old friend at a store. The poet smiles in recognition before remembering the “serious difference” that ended the friendship, years ago. The smile, like a hammer to the knee, elicits a reflex before its bearer can retract it: the friend smiles back. In the instant of glimpsing, at the level of instinct, both women default to an era before the “angry months in which we were both right in many ways.” Paley explains the smile as a gesture of a love that’s at once “true” and “foolish.”
So the unwilled curve on one face reflects the unwitting curve on another’s. The strangers glitch to the unestranged start before memory catches up and urges them strange again. Through their smiles (before they fade), the past friends rhyme. This is how every eye rhyme goes: a spark of recognition, a turn away.
The turn can be toward anything. To stand here is to survey some of the directions possible, to appreciate the variety of ways in which things grow apart. A split can be held within a single object or may spread across many. Change can go unnoticed or feel too radical to reconcile. The divergence is sometimes mild, sometimes pointed, sometimes coy, sometimes poignant. Often, difference erupts as laughter.
Sarah is not the poet of Love but she has written poems. Recently, she found an electric typewriter and transcribed some sombre ones she’d written years ago. The typewriter refused entire swaths of alphabet; more page got through. The poems, once dense, lightened. Now friends who’d never seen them before read them aloud, reshaping lines like oo gropped reentess. Working to form the words, the readers smile spontaneously and in spite of themselves. Not regressively, but redemptively. That’s one of the directions.
Love moves in many; a smile might mark the beginning or the end. It can be a labour of love to pull things apart. The fruits of that labour – the unique things here – are tragicomic: they’re estranged, and wonderful. They’re whimsical and also elegant, silly and also serious, foolish and also true. // Heather White
Poems I Tried to Write You, typewritten poems, 2013
Eight personal poems typed using a broken 1970's electric typewriter. Varying sizes, typewriter ink on found paper.
Poems I Tried to Write You, HD video, 2015
Featuring: Susy Oliveira, Duncan Alexander Cameron Stewart, Kristen D Schaffer, Benjamin Edelberg, Catherine Sands Phillips, Lili Huston-Herterich, Sebastian Frye, and Rebecca Travis