BOOK: APPRECIATING CONTEMPORARY ART

‘The horse is the white of the eyes…’(!)(Twin Peaks S03E08)

Great Poems #6

Jakob Zaaiman
4 min readApr 18, 2023

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The mantra poem works its magic. (Screenshot from Twin Peaks.)
The mantra poem begins to work its magic. (Screenshot from Twin Peaks.)

The most obvious and straightforward way a poem engages with its audience is through the carefully orchestrated positioning of words and phrases, but there can also be other less conventional and more surprising methods; a handful of which are a joy to encounter. The mantra poem in Twin Peaks (S03E08) is one such.

Performative poetry is a specialist realm in its own right, and we can’t hope to do more than point out, in passing, a few key aspects of its distinctive nature. What we’re talking about here is poetry which either achieves a noticeable enrichment in being publicly performed or, in rare instances, is entirely dependent for its worth on its incorporation into a spoken word setting. For example, a John Cooper Clark reading can easily become a declamatory assault; a Gertrude Stein recording, on the other hand, can bring an uncanny sense to what would otherwise just be absurdist words on a page.

Which brings us to the bizarre interlude towards the end of Episode 8 of Twin Peaks Season 3, in which some darkened figures appear literally out of the ether; one of whom heads — with an uncertain intention — towards a seemingly remote radio station KPJK, located in the Los Alamos region of New Mexico. The darkened figure wanders into the station building and ‘murders’ a receptionist and the disc jockey by effortlessly crushing their skulls. In the background, ‘My Prayer’ by the Platters is being broadcast. The darkened figure then grabs the broadcast mike and begins a very deliberative series of repetitive recitations of the lines ‘This is the water…’ which, when heard by the late-night audience, have the effect of rendering them unconscious, as if struck by an unseen force.

The ‘poem’ itself (in full):

“This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.”

Listen to it on Soundcloud:

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