Thursday, October 4, 2007

Caroline Bergvall at Openned last night

Openned is a group that among other things 'seeks to create flexible spaces for poetry and poetic practitioners by inviting less established and more established writers to read together'. It does this by hosting evenings in the bowels of the Foundry in Old Street. Take a wrong turn and you might walk into the middle of somebody's sprawling sculptural plaster work, still in progress; retrace your steps and you will find yourself surrounded by mildly psychedelic canvases in a long, low-lit basement room, suitably scruffy and bohemian, but not so far away from the real world that we can't hear what sounds like a Lauryn Hill retrospective booming from the speakers in the upstairs bar. Jerome Rothenberg seemed quite at home there, stroking his beard and delighting in the sound of his vowels.

Someone with a more diasporic relationship to her diphthongs was the French-Norwegian Anglophone, Caroline Bergvall (below). Brilliantly, she had found in the Canterbury tales the exact point in time where the sound of the English language most resembled her own accent. Her joyful reworking of Chaucer, in which she grouped together all his food references, sparkled off her tongue and allowed her to confidently move into a mix of Chaucerian and her own English for her second reading.

It was when Bergvall was commissioned to write a piece in Norwegian for the online poetry journal Nypoesi that she really came up against her linguistic anxieties, and in doing so created a very moving piece, Cropper.

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