Friday, 4 May 2018

Penn Kemp : part eight

How important is music to your poetry?

I love collaborating with musicians, to hear how they lift the words off the page.  Many of my CDs are collaborations with musicians like Bill Gilliam and Brenda McMorrow and Mary Ashton and Paniotis Giannarapis of Light of East Ensemble.

For me, sound poetry is a last resort for creative expression when words fail the enormity of the emotions.  For years I have been exploring the outer limits of sound poetry, using variations on the body’s primal sound patterns to release an original voice.  The chants that result from this process are not metaphoric; the wall of sound creates a bodily synaesthesia, where one sense is experienced in terms of another.  My notion of sounding started with the labour of childbirth: an amazement at the inhuman howls emitted from a mouth that insisted on its own expression.  Grounded in that direct experience of the female body, my experiment with sounding continued in hearing and echoing babies’ exploration from babble into language.

Drawn in with the breath, sound provokes memories of tonal awareness, before language, before thought.  Conceptual frames block direct perception.  Trouble is, all of what we take to be reality, is subsumed into concepts.  But came first is the birth cry.  Sounding recreates first perception.  Its wail allows for any eventuality.  Sub-verbal, it explores languages in widening waves of individual expression.  Sounding can be a last resort for creative expression when words fail the enormity of the emotions.  It is exciting to use the sound of the voices to portray the inner space of the body and its the environment.  Such communication can resolve the tension between inner and outer worlds through play.  Sounding allows for multilinear narrative and a profusion of voices in an exploration of subjective experience.  Each in its quixotic way, sound poems can act out different characters in a revisioning of polyphony.

Sound poetry has been my medium of expression and communication, but its source is subliminal and so surprising, even or especially to me.  Inspiration comes literally from the breath and the way the breath forms sounds, shapes its own meaning as waves carve out niches in a sea cave.  Sounding explores the realm of the senses along the edge of skin.  A fascination with the margins of consciousness has occupied much of my work.  Internal necessity is driven by a poetic vision of interlocking sequences of phonemes that demand their scribe.  The immediacy of experience— the effect of computers on the psyche, for instance, or hormones on the body— merges with past and possible futures in the resonant encapsulation of sound.  This process demands my entire attention.

Sounds overlap memory and words in sine waves of possibility, along the morning shore behind closed eyes: the immediacy of present day experience.  Soundscape explores the primal areas of the human psyche that are beyond the reach of words and ideas at this juncture of the threshold, on the surface of skin, looking in and out.

My work is play grounded in a spacious awareness of word-hoards and an acute attention to syllabics.  One of the things that my sound poetry does is break language down into component sounds, and probably some sounds that are usually made only by cats in heat or me in labour.  Sound is how we discover language; learn to communicate with our world.  Being deaf is said to be more difficult, lonelier than being blind.  Sounds enter the sense like scent, filling the space.  The muffled sound of a cathedral replicates what a child hears in through the permeable walls of the womb.

Sounding is a process by which private space can explode into performance.  Utter, utterly.  Sound and poetry are close allies.  Sound leads to language.  Sound leads the poet on to the next stanza.  I wait for the next assonance rather than the visual image as the breath line hinges on its cyclical return.

Sound Opera is a new form I developed in performance & recording over the last three decades, in her desire to lift poetry off the page to the stage.  Sound Opera is based on text but it expands poetic possibilities to include voice, music & movement, to express narrative when emotions burst the seams of print.

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