August 8, 2004

Sound Poetry Festival II

Saturday, August 28, 2004
8:00 PM - midnight

Performance Works Northwest
4625 SE 67th Ave. (at Foster Rd), Portland OR
$6 suggested donation

Dozens of performers from near and far:

Chicago: Charles Bernstien; San Francisco: David Braden; Ron Heglin; Moscow, ID: Crag Hill; Seattle: Ezra Mark & Bryant Mason; Portland: Ashley Edwards & Zach Reno; David Abel; Kathleen Keogh; Bryan Eubanks & ensemble; ChuNiMu (the ensemble formerly known as JJMAD); Lisa Radon & Tim DuRoche; Michael Stirling; mARK oWEns


recordings from Italy
a video opera by Bethany Wright & Seth Nehil
special call-in guests


the CD release of the live Phoneticathon from last year's festival, courtesy of
Sad Penguin Records

You don't want to miss it!

For the second consecutive year, the Spare Room reading series brings together widely dispersed practitioners of the literary-musical-theatrical art of sound poetry.

Though less familiar to audiences in the United States, sound poetry has a long and distinguished history in Europe, where numerous international festivals, recordings, broadcasts, and publications have been devoted to its manifestations. Beginning nearly a century ago with the Russian and Italian Futurists, and the Dadaists in Switzerland and Germany, and taking retrospective roots in archaic and ritual utterances, sound poetry has been elaborated in countless directions by post-disciplinary artists on every continent.

(The extensive collection of text documents and sound files at is perhaps the most accessible and comprehensive resource for an overview of sound poetry, past and present.)

What is Sound Poetry? Well, to begin with, it is not new. And since it began it has not made sense. It takes language's constraints seriously. It is about sound, and I have nothing more to say about it.
—mARK oWEns

The first phase, perhaps better-termed, the first area of sound poetry, is the vast, intractable area of archaic and primitive poetries, the many instances of chant structures and incantation, of nonsense syllabic mouthings and deliberate lexical distortions still alive among North American, African, Asian and Oceanic peoples. We should also bear in mind the strong and persistent folkloric and ludic strata that manifests in the world's many language games, in the nonsense syllabary of nursery rhymes, mnemonic counting aids, whisper games and skipping chants, mouth music and folk-song refrain, which foregrounds as an important compositional element in work as chronologically separate as the Russian Futurist Kruchenykh's zaum poems (ca. 1910) and Bengt af Klintberg's use of cusha-calls and incantations (ca. 1965).
—Steve McCaffery, "Sound Poetry: A Survey"

Leonardo da Vinci asked the poet to give him something he might see and touch and not just something he could hear. Sound poetry seems to me to be achieving this aim. PARTLY it is a recapturing of a more primitive form of language, before communication by expressive sounds became stereotyped into words, when the voice was richer in vibrations, more mightily physical.
—Bob Cobbing, "Some Statements on Sound Poetry"

I, personally, would prefer the chaos and disorder which each of us would strive to master, in terms of his own ingenuousness, to the order imposed by the Word which everybody uses indiscriminately, always for the benefit of a capital, of a church, of a socialism, etc....
—Henri Chopin, "Why I Am the Author of Sound Poetry . . ." (1967)

The art is text-sound, as distinct from text-print and text-seen, which is to say that texts must be sounded and thus heard to be "read," in contrast to those that must be printed and thus be seen. The art is text-sound, rather than sound-text, to acknowledge the initial presence of a text, which is subject to aural enhancements more typical of music. To be precise, it is by non-melodic auditory structures that language or verbal sounds are poetically charged with meanings or resonances they would not otherwise have. The most appropriate generic term for the initial materials would be "vocables," which my dictionary defines as "a word regarded as a unit of sounds or letters rather than as a unit of meaning."
—Richard Kostelanetz, "Text Sound Art: A Survey"