Invisible cities is a book about ways of seeing. It sits at a balance point between poetry, architecture, design, deconstruction, and magical realism.
Marco Polo narrates. The book is composed of 55 prose poems, each about a city he has visited. Each city belongs to a theme:
- Cities & Memory
- Cities & Desire
- Cities & Signs
- Thin Cities
- Trading Cities
- Cities & Eyes
- Cities & Names
- Cities & the Dead
- Cities & the Sky
- Continuous Cities
- Hidden Cities
These themes repeat in a sequences that resemble generative music. The structure is there, but it's hard to put a finger on what exactly the structure is.
The poems themeselves have recurring tropes that suggest an elusive pattern.
- Evocative materials: glass, bronze, bone
- Imports and exports
- Key locations: temples, markets, stables, towers
Each poem can be read as magical realism, a metaphor, or a way of seeing. For example:
4. Trading Cities
In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city's life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
Is this a description of a real city, or a description of all real cities?