Caroline Bergvall has emerged over the past decade as one of the most brilliantly inventive poets of our time. Bergvall's new book, Meddle English, is multilectical, conceptual, sprung lyric – let's just say pataque(e)rical – extravaganza.
At Sibyl, the English portal of Sibila, we've published Bergvall's own excerpt from the first piece in her new book, which I asked her to send my way as I was eager to have at least part of this work readily accesible on-line. Here are two crucial passages which are for me a kind of manifesto for writing in our time, for the kind of poetries I want: a poetry that doesn't accept English as a standard but as a site for meddling: a meddling that allows for the kind of transformation that is the foundation of exchange. Indeed, Bergvall's comments on voice strike me as getting to the heart of a central concern in the expanded field of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E: the aversion of "voice" in the pursuit of voices, voicings.
I'm in this sort of, ok very odd location for thinking here once more about bay area poetry community stuff: not at home, but not that far away either, at an artist residency program. It's not something I've had the privilege of doing before, this going away to read and write in a quiet place with a few others scattered nearby. I never thought I'd be able, or want to read and write in such a quiet place; I've always felt most comfortable in those quiet places surrounded on all sides by the sounds of other people, cars, parks, the freeway that runs almost right above the house at night. I keep trying to figure out how to be in this other quiet. This incredible luxury. A constant fear of squandering time, which must be, at least in part, what I've been invited here to do.
The big difference right now feels like the distance between me and a BART station, the closest in Fremont or Millbrae, and neither anywhere within walking distance from where I sit watching two lizards who would like to come inside. They run up to the glass door every hour or so, peer in, dart from side to side, appear to do something like modified pushups. Last night I listened to what I am pretty sure was an owl (hi dear people reading Alma), while up too late watching videos and reading about actions in solidarity with the Pelican Bay hunger strike, while up too late watching videos and reading about actions in protest of the most recent killing by BART cops, who shot Charles Hill on July 3, shot him three times in the chest, a man so drunk witnesses described him as unable to stand.
In his book Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry, Ian Davidson has written that in terms of poets’ response to the “spatial turn” he believes, “The most satisfying responses to spatialization and globalization are from those poets who engage with those processes through both the content of their work and through experimentations in poetic form” (p. 27). One poet whose “experimentations in poetic form” I’ve found consistently thought-provoking is Portland, Oregon-based poet Jared Hayes.
JB: In the mesostic poems posted below how does your methodology emerge in terms of both form and content?
a.rawlings performing with Maja Jantar at Stichting Perdu in Amsterdam, 28 May 2010. All photos taken by Frank Keizer.
“How does text eat itself?” Prologue (a.rawlings, Wide slumber for lepidopterists)
How does a text sound itself?
How does a body text itself?
How does a voice body itself?
How does a sound eat its voice?
How does a voice body its eat?
These are some of the productive questions that arise when faced with a.rawlings’ work, a work manifested in the arena of the printed page, in the voice and composition of its performed embodiment and in a moment full of presence and risk unfolding between rawlings and one of her collaborators.