Eric Schmaltz

Poetries of the Mouth and Canadian Imaginary

Conditions of silence

Recovering Gerry Shikatani's 'Sans Titre'

Source: Japanese Canadian Artists Directory

It’s October 24, 1981. You’re on route to Studio Gallery Nine, located beneath Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway, just north of Queen Street East at 9 Davies Avenue. You’re travelling this route to attend an event hosted by the Kontakte Writers In Performance series. Japanese Canadian poet and cultural critic, Gerry Shikatani, is on the bill.

Imaging the voice

Notating poetic vocalization

Back cover image for 'Open Letter' (Sixth Series, no. 1: Spring 1985)

In the mid-1980s, Open Letter — Canada’s defunct and dearly missed journal of theory and poetics — dedicated five issues of the journal to notation for poetry and language. Each installment of this series contains a range of texts that intersect with the idea of notation to explore topics including reading, rhythm, composition, documentation, and performance. 

“Notation is a set

of instructions for

reading (in) the

future” (Robert Kroetsch)

 

'Schizophonophilia'

Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto, The Contact Zone Crew

Image of The Contact Zone Crew
Credit: Wayde Compton.

In their poetic experiments with electroacoustic technologies, Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto — known as The Contact Zone Crew — advance what Compton has called schizophonophilia: “the love of audio interplay, the pleasure of critical disruptions to natural audition, the counter-hegemonic affirmation that can be achieved through acoustic intervention.”[1] As an audio poetry project, Compton and de Couto realize schizophonophilia by using sampling and mixing as the core of their poetics. They work with sounds from instrumental hip hop, jazz, black spirituals, Japanese music, sound effects, and custom made dub plates (containing recorded readings by Compton. For Compton, the concept of schizophonophilia departs from the thinking of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer’s similar term “schizophonia.” In "The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World," “schizophonia” describes “the split between an original sound and its electroacoustic reproduction” and is characterized as an “aberrational effect of the twentieth century.” The condition of schizophonia, for Schafer, arises in part from the increasing availability of audio recording technologies, which make it more possible for sound to travel away from its time and place of origin.

In their poetic experiments with electroacoustic technologies, Wayde Compton and Jason de Couto — known as The Contact Zone Crew — advance what Compton has called schizophonophilia: “the love of audio interplay, the pleasure of critical disruptions to natural audition, the counter-hegemonic affirmation that can be achieved through acoustic intervention.”[1] As an audio poetry project, Compton and de Couto realize schizophonophilia by using sampling and mixing as the core of their poetics.

'Voices of continuance'

Words, speech, and memory in Jeannette Armstrong’s 'Breath Tracks' (1991)

Jeanette Armstrong’s poem collection Breath Tracks (1991) sews the sinew and muscle of the writing hand to the lips and lungs of the speaking mouth. The title of the book gestures toward the entanglement of writing and speaking in the body: tracks, the trace of language upon the page that is left by movements of the hand, and breath, that which comes before, during, and after the act of vocalization — a trace of the body in itself. In its positioning of these enmeshed mechanisms, Breath Tracks is a book about the mouth on the page or, to borrow the words that Armstrong imparts to Kim Anderson, these poems articulate “how sound and body gesture to create an art form.”[1]  

Word-Sound-Systems

Further notes on Kaie Kellough’s vibratory poetics

Blurry image of Kaie Kellough
Photo taken at Artists Against Apartheid concert by Mariel Rosenbluth.

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.  Kellough has a tendency to imagine the world as a conduit for vibratory pulses: “the rain forest is a mixing board with infinite inputs and outputs,” he writes in Magnetic Equator. His poetry is often located on paper, but it is written for sounding.

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.