Alec Finlay is a Scottish poet and artist based in Edinburgh. These texts come from a series of ongoing projects derived from research into place names, in particular Gaelic (from his book gathering, forthcoming from Hauser & Wirth in 2018) and Norn — the dialect of Scots and Norse spoken in Orkney and Shetland Norn c. 1800 (from MinnMouth, forthcoming in 2017). This sequence derives from a performance given at the 2016 O-I/I-O Poetry Festival in Glasgow as a closer to the whole event.
The term Gothic is marvelously, if disconcertingly, fluid, designating at times both barbarian horde and proto-nationalist regime, pagan chieftain and Christian theocrat, aesthetic atrocity and high art: thus to speak of the “translational Gothic” is to speak of both the wild mutations possible through “infidel” translation and the wild translations implicit in the survival of the term Gothic itself. John Ruskin describes the Gothic “as the rough mineral . . . submitted to [the analysis] of the chemist, entangled with many other foreign substances, itself perhaps in no place pure, or ever to be obtained or seen in purity for more than an instant.” He nevertheless thinks that this instant—knit into the mess of centuries—is definable, much like Walter Benjamin’s faith in a translation that only momentarily, fleetingly touches upon the meaning of the original, or the meaning of “originality” for that matter.
Lisa Robertson talks with me about her new book; the form of Cinema of the Present; rethinking lyric and epic poetry through feminism; experimentation and/or subjectivity; prose versus verse; the persistence of beauty, pleasure, and the aesthetic; early connections to the Kootenay School of Writing; living bilingually in France and the bubble of monolingualism; soft architecture; writing essays for visual arts publications,;and seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. Close Listening is produced for Clocktower Radio in association with PennSound.
Bio-artist, cybernetician, and assembleur Roy Ascott refers to “a moistmedia substrate where digital systems, telematics, and genetic engineering” all meet. This fertile matrix, in his imagining, is a haven for “cultural traditions previously banished from materialist discourse as esoteric and shamanic.” This esoteric tendency poetically and noetically questions the very bases of upper-case Form and Object-hood.