Risking a page or voice?

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.

rawlings practices what Umberto Eco called an “open work,” an approach perhaps more common in music, yet less common in poetic practice, where “every performance explains the composition but does not exhaust it. Every performance makes the work an actuality, but is itself only complementary to all other possible performances of the work.” (Umberto Eco, “The Poetics of the Open Work”)

This is a work that is textual and textural in both its written and voiced forms. In oscillating between text, sound, movement, improvisation, rawlings composes an embodiment of language akin to an organism; a composition which, like an organism, is fluid, alive, evolving vulnerable and risky. Her inscribed pages demand that we improvise their possible renderings; her performances layer and make concrete a vocabulary of sound and movement, they make language happen.

In the din of traffic on a busy urban street I write. There is the breeze fickle with rain, the birds full of morning and linden, the shifting gears of a truck, the whir of a cyclist’s wheels touching pavement, the hurried footsteps of a passerby. There is my breathing, the swallowing lurch of tea, the soft clicks of the keyboard. And in this, an improvised composition of a body in an environment, a composition that demands that I listen and that I happen, much in the way that rawlings demands of us through her work.

As an interdisciplinary poet and arts educator, a.rawlings has performed and published work throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Her first book, Wide slumber for lepidopterists (Coach House Books, 2006) is being translated into French. In recent years, she has spent time in Belgium, Canada, and Iceland working on her next manuscripts, researching sound/text/movement with special emphasis on vocal and contact improvisation, and collaborating with local artists. Her current collaborators include experiential theatre company bluemouth inc. and Belgian artist Maja Jantar, Canadian musician Nilan Perera, and Canadian dancer Julie Lassonde. To listen, watch, discover some of a.rawlings’ work, including her work-in-progress, Environment Canada, meander through her author page at PennSound.