Saturday, 7 March 2009

Thursday evening performances

The poets included Ricardo Domeneck, an originally Brazilian poet who lives in Berlin and edits Hilda magazine, and Eduard Escoffet, a Catalan poet who performed the Krikri festivals in 2003 and 2008.

I’ve been unlucky with Ricardo’s readings: his outdoor performance at the Poesiefestival Berlin was cancelled due to torrential rain, and last night the projector wasn’t working, which is tough on a poet who uses a lot of video art in his performances. The pleasure of a straightforward reading, though, was that it brought out the quality of the texts. My favourites were a piece in English based on various dictionary definitions of ‘body’ – I’m making it sound boring, but he did original and surprising things with an old idea – and a multilingual piece that danced from Portuguese to German to English to Spanish to Italian without tripping over its toes. It reminded me a little of something Jessica said about her ‘Veils’ (in the exhibition – I’ll blog about them soon): the experience of language learning “when you look at a sign system and you know it has meaning and that you should be able to understand it but you can’t … that moment, as the language passes from opacity to translucence, fades as quickly as it arrives.” For me Ricardo’s poem was constantly slipping between the veils, girasoles and Schmetterlingen.

This is the fourth time I’ve heard Eduard perform, I think. I don’t know whether he has ever performed in North America (hint hint Jenny, angela…) but if you get the chance to see him you will come out of the auditorium floating several inches off the ground. His Catalan translation of Paul Celan’s ‘Sprich auch du’ (parla tu tambe sprich auch du, on his myspace page) is the only poem that has ever had me dancing round the living room… I’m not sure how Celan would feel about that, but then he never heard his poem in Catalan. Eduard uses a mixture of languages, and often works with translations projected onto a screen behind him, but as I said the projector wasn’t working last night. The performance and musical aspects of his work are easily strong enough for it not to matter that the audience don’t always understand the words, but this is the first time I’ve been struck by the oddness of regularly performing for a roomful of people who don’t speak your language at all. And by the beauty of Eduard’s hand gestures: he dances his work, much in the way that an Indian dancer mimes a song text.

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