We must also be aware of the title of the poem itself, "Fridge Nocturne," in our exploration of white noise. When I had first read the poem, I assumed "nocturne" was simply being used in place of "nocturnal:" the french adjective, I assumed, chosen for its pretentious mystique, which is indicative of some attention-seeking English poetry. However, the term "nocturne" refers specifically to a musical composition, usually solo-piano, that is in some way evocative of nighttime (OED). Thematically, this title is clearly fitting of the poem: not only does it take place at night, but it specifically evokes a sense sleep as facilitated through the white noise of the fridge. However, what is particularly interesting about labelling the poem "nocturne" is that it elicits a sense of nonverbal representation in a poem that is made up of language. Having written my honours thesis on the tensions between oral and written modes of representation, this nonverbal label on "Fridge Nocturne" particularly intrigues me. By labelling his poem as such, McKay is setting up "Fridge Nocturne" not simply as a poem that concerns itself with white noise, but one that is white noise. Nocturne's, while clearly more thought-inducing than the manufactured rainfall used to lull people to sleep today, are often described as tranquil in same manner white noise is meant to be. The nonverbal label on "Fridge Nocturne," then, functions in two manners. In one sense, it may suggest that we view the language in McKay's poem not as signifiers referencing signifieds, but rhythmic, sound-words as in the case of "humble murmur." Or, conversely, attaching "nocturne" to a verbal piece of work could be McKay's way of urging the reader to be more aware of the meaning hidden within white noise; to view it as signifying something greater and not simply push it to the background.
However, seeking out white noise, or using it purposefully, in a sense destroys it. McKay, like Delillo and others, deconstructs the very essence of white noise by moving it from the background of our mental landscapes to the forefront. That is not to say that white noise does not function in the traditional, unnoticeable sense in McKay's poem. However, it is not through the image of the fridge, whose emphasis and poetic exploration moves it away from mere background sound. Rather, it is the tensions between passivity and agency, as voiced through the ambiguous pronouns; the tensions in gendered representations; and the tensions between the manmade and natural world that sneak their way into the ambient soundtrack of MacKay's poem. For, these seemingly natural, inherently hierarchical binaries that make up the white noise of life are what we really need to notice.
Sleep and white noise, although ambiguously blurred in McKay's poem, are quite similar: they both facilitate unconsciousness, and when one becomes aware of them is when they stop working. Just one more thing: did you forget about the fridge sound?
McKay, Don. "Fridge Nocturne." 70 Canadian Poets. Ed. Garry Geddes. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.
"nocturne, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2017. Web. 21 March 2017.