Edwin Torres, Huda Fakhreddine, and Jena Osman joined Al Filreis in the Arts Café at the Kelly Writers House to talk about a performance piece by Cecilia Vicuña. The piece was a segment in a ninety-minute presentation titled “An Illustrated Conversation” that took place in the same room at the Writers House in February of 2017. One of the parts of the performance goes under the title “Colliding and not colliding at the same time.” The segment begins as the audience, having been encouraged to ask questions about an art video that had just been screened, went momentarily silent. No questions were being asked, so Vicuña began improvisationally to fill the room with words and sounds, exploring a convergence or collision of topics: the then-recent election of Donald Trump, the “millionaires’ coup” in Brazil, the “mystery of what is happening at this moment in the earth,” the collective thought of the people in the room, and the room itself.
Rosa Alcalá's impressive work with language takes shape as poetry, essays, criticism. A thread running through through much of her work is translation, though perhaps its presence need not always be announced, or even understood.
Queens poet laureate Paolo Javier created a day of poetry at the Queens Museum of Art, bringing poets and presses into the newly renovated museum for "Eterniday." Exhibited presses included Ugly Ducklng, Tender Button, Litmus, Nightboat, and Futurepoem. I curated a reading in the spectacular Panorama, with Cecilia Vicuan (top), Tracie Morris, Julia Patton, Shelley Hirsch, Tracie Morris, Tan Lin, and me.
This post’s playlist presents recordings from the PennSound archive that explore the continuum between language, music, and other types of sound.
I want to begin with a few related recordings of Nathaniel Mackey and his ongoing serial poem Song of the Andoumboulou. In Mackey’s introduction to a 1997 KWH reading he discusses the poem’s relationship to the Dogon funeral song of the same name, recorded by Francois Di Dio in 1974. Listen to Mackey’s poem Song of the Andoumboulou: 18. I am always struck by this moment when, near the end of the Dogon recording, as the pitch from the horn wavers up and down, I hear an ambiguity between what could be perceived as a human shout and the sound of a musical instrument. It’s this type of threshold point that has been in the back of my mind when I listen to poetry recordings lately.