The release of his most recent book of poetry, Magnetic Equator (2019), prompts my return to the spoken word and sound poetries of Montreal-based novelist, poet, and performer Kaie Kellough. When given the chance, I’ve thought publicly about Kellough’s work in other forums: a mini review of his performances here and a conversation we had about sound, technology, and ancestry here. Having just recently heard Kellough’s voice fill the atrium of the Art Gallery of Ontario at the launch for his latest collection, I was delivered back to the flows of joy and curiosity that I find his poetry and performances well within me.
New at PennSound — Jackson Mac Low, Dick Higgins, Petr Kotik, Joseph Kubera, and Chris Nappi perform Emmett Williams’s Cellar Song for Five Voices. This piece was written in 1960. The recording here was made of a performance in 1990, presented by the S.E.M. Ensemble, recorded by Mikhail Liberman at Paula Cooper Gallery, 2/6/1990. Click on this link to the Jackson Mac Low PennSound page: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Mac-Low.php#cellar .
Editorial note: Fellow Canadians Paul Dutton and W. Mark Sutherland ply the field of unconventional poetic practice in this interview, conducted by Sutherland in December 2009 and January 2010. Sutherland, an intermedia artist perhaps as heavily invested in language as Dutton (with whom he has collaborated artistically in the past), explores his colleague’s vast array of poetic practices, including visual poetry, sound poetry, and improvisational soundsinging. Dutton has released five books and four recordings of his solo work (recent examples include the CDs Mouth Pieces and Oralizations), but is widely recognized for his ensemble work as well, namely his participation in the Four Horsemen with bpNichol, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, and Steve McCaffery. Below this interview, you will find six poems by Paul Dutton. — Kenna O’Rourke
Andrew Demirjian participated in ModPo during the fall of 2013. “As I was reading the poems and watching/listening to the videos,” he wrote me recently, "I was working on two pieces as a creative response to the course.” One of those pieces is entitled “Amiri Baraka A-Z.” It is an alphabetical vocabulary for Baraka, consisting of word-length clips drawn from PennSound’s Baraka recordings, each embedded under a letter of the alphabet. Click on a letter — or touch a letter on the iPad — and Baraka’s voice performs single words beginning with that letter. Once you start the web-installation poem, it will continue; you can stay with a letter, or move around and spell out your own performative vocabulary.
Bob Cobbing (1920–2002) — sound poet, visual and concrete poet, DIY printer, and active member of an alternative socio-poetic community in the UK — insisted that there’s no use in adding to poetry what’s already there. In “Some Statements on Sound Poetry” (1969) he wrote: “Gone is the word as the word, though the word may still be used as sound or shape.” And he added: “Poetry now resides in other elements.” In this episode, Al Filreis is joined by sound poet Jaap Blonk, phonotextualist Steve McLaughlin, and experimental archivist Danny Snelson as they approach a single work by Cobbing, “Portrait of Robin Crozier,” in an effort to identify generally those “other elements.”
Robert Sheppard contributed this piece to Jacketissue 9 to mark the occasion of Bob Cobbing's 75th birthday:
I visited Bob Cobbing, and thus met my first poet, on November 3 1973. I was still at school, keen to put on an exhibition of concrete poetry. I recognised this as the wilder edge of the new British poetry I had discovered through Horovitz' anthology Children of Albion and Bill Butler's Brighton bookshop. In the school library there was, unaccountably, Emmett Williams' An Anthology of Concrete Poetry. Bob was in it.
When I arrived at Randolph Avenue to collect some hansjörg mayer posters, Bob was already talking to a student who was writing a thesis on language in visual art. I listened as they talked and sounded some of the Shakespeare Kaku. I remained mute, uncertain. Bob played a tape of himself and Peter Finch performing e colony from the Five Vowels, a then incomplete project. He showed us the work in progress. I stayed for six hours literally learning the life of a poet.
Like Place’s iterations of Gone with the Wind,Jonathan Stalling’s Yíngēlìshī 吟歌丽诗 also takes as its impetus the copying of another text and also addresses racial stereotyping and the negative attitude toward accents and dialects of English that differ from enforced norms. In Yíngēlìshī , Stalling appropriates an English phrasebook for Chinese speakers. The phrasebook uses standard characters for representing English speech. These characters are not meaningless but their use is conventionalized and in this context they are meant simply to stand for the English sounds––their meaning in Chinese is considered irrelevant. Stalling reproduces the Chinese and English from the phrasebook.
Charlie Morrow visited the Kelly Writers House recently and gave a packed house quite a performance. As usual, of course, he got us involved in making meaning of “mere” sound. The program is further described here. Soon — but not yet — links to both the audio and video recordings will be available at that page and also at PennSound.
This is Part III of a four-part essay that appears in Portuguese in Deslocamentos Críticos (Lisbon: Babel; São Paulo, Itaú Cultural, 2011) under the title "Obra Sonora Poética: 1980-2010." Read Part I here and Part II here.
Brazilian Poetic Sound Work: 1980-2010
“Barulho”’s suggestion of the physicality of poetry through both its sound and sense resonates anew in the “cross-platform” work of Ricardo Aleixo. In Gullar, sound functions within Poundian melopoeia, plucking noises, rhythm, and melodies out of printed words via poetic devices including rhyme, assonance, and alliteration (even as it reaches to involve the body of the reader through the idea of breath). Aleixo’s poetry combines these devices with sonic devices in means and media beyond the realm of the printed page. His most important medium may be his own performing body and voice. Through performance, he actualizes the movement, voice, lyric self, and voice-body-sound relationship that Gullar’s poem evokes.
Last year, I wrote an essay on sound in contemporary Brazilian poetry that was published in Portuguese in Deslocamentos Críticos (Lisbon: Babel; São Paulo, Itaú Cultural, 2011). I am glad to share the English version of the essay here over the next several posts. My great thanks to Rumos Literatura do Itaú Cultural, the literary criticism program of Itaú Cultural, for their support of this research.
Brazilian Poetic Sound Work: 1980-2010
In the course of performing Um Ano Entre Os Humanos, poet Ricardo Aleixo (b. 1960) recites and sings.1 He plays guitar and bits of hardware. He dj’s from a laptop. Some of these sounds are scripted; others, improvised. All complement the visual aspects of the performance, which include video, a simple set of a chair and table holding just the laptop, a microphone, and percussion instruments, and Aleixo and his co-performer’s both choreographed and spontaneous movements. Sound contrasts, however, with the piece’s most striking visual symbol: the poemanto, a large black cloth emblazoned with white letters that Aleixo wraps himself in and animates for part of the performance, and that appears in a video that plays for part of the piece.