Community·Poetry Club

East Coast Poetry Club: Controller B by Nolan Natasha

In the sixth instalment of East Coast Poetry Club, poet Nolan Natasha shares an ode to the ephemeral experiences that we can never truly grasp.

Read “Controller B” by Halifax poet Nolan Natasha


Welcome back to the East Coast Poetry Club. For our sixth week, we're sharing a poem and accompanying video by Nolan Natasha. Natasha is a queer and trans writer who lives and writes in Nova Scotia. His debut poetry collection, I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? was published by Invisible Publishing last year. Here, Natasha shares some personal insights into his poem.

(Submitted by Nolan Natasha)

Gadgets from the late 80s and early 90s show up frequently in my poetry. This wasn't intentional, but one day I just realized they were scattered throughout my work. There is something about the way these artifacts of my childhood degrade—physically breaking down, but also in terms of their dwindling impressiveness—that connects with other themes in my poetry. 

When I was ten, nothing was more miraculous than harnessing the power of a set of walkie-talkies which allowed you to talk to your friend who was literally dozens of meters away! As hard as I try, I can't feel that awe now. 

I can't quite grasp the frequency of my excitement when I pulled back the Christmas wrapping paper to find the Nintendo Entertainment System I'd never even dared to hope I'd someday own. I also can't grasp the charge of falling in love the first time, or even the last. There are some things you can't keep. The electricity that runs through these moments inevitably escapes and we are left with only a ghost of that resonance. Controller B is a kind of love song—an attempt to point to a magic that is over, but still resonant.

Controller B

Our Nintendo never died. Eventually
the screen started to flash solid white
and orange. All the kids knew
how to fix this: take the game out
and blow into the cartridge. Blow hard
along the whole edge like a harmonica.
Tilt and lower your head
so you face the console.
Blow into the back of the machine—
mouth to mouth.

Now I hope—with my adult
lungs—I could make Mario
drop from the sky again,
if I plugged in the console
and breathed into it.

Now that you've read Controller B, here are two questions to reflect upon:

  • What fleeting feeling would you hold on to, if you could?

  • Is there an artifact from your childhood that holds special significance now?

Visit @CBC_EastCoast on Instagram to share your thoughts on Controller B, and to see a video interpretation of the poem.

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Nolan Natasha is a queer and trans writer. He has been a finalist for the CBC poetry prize, the Ralph Gustafson Poetry prize, the Geist postcard contest, and the Thomas Morton fiction prize. Nolan’s debut poetry collection, I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me? was released in the fall of 2019 with Invisible publishing.