Wednesday, May 09, 2018

On Writing #151 : Sandra Moussempès


Poetry as the ultimate language

Sandra Moussempès



As a french poet I find it exotic to explain my own creative process in another language; it’s like expressing myself on different psychic levels. When I used to live in London I remember feeling a total freedom in speaking english. I used to live at the home of Olwyn Hughes, Ted Hughes's sister, who was also the editor of Sylvia Plath. Olwyn was a close friend of my dear father (he died in 1981) in the sixties, Olwyn was the sort of an auntie who helped me dealing with relationship issues using through her astrology skills (as she did for Plath and Ted Hughes, she was an expert). She encouraged me to write and read all my manuscripts in French. Reading Plath in English in Olwyn's attic made me also see how much languages can bring different perceptions to art and life. 

Actually, the ultimate language for me became poetry (and music to a certain extent), a real language as a laboratory of my own perceptions, not the daily language made with social  and mental codes but a way to recycle and work with those social stereotypes, reconsidered as issues I could use them as creative material.

I started writing because I had nothing stable in my life, although I was brought up in a intellectual and hippie family. I was a teenager when my dad died; I could only rely on myself. I always felt different from other people and this dramatic event made my life even more out of the ordinary. First, I trained to be an actress (played in few short films) and was a singer (making a few records in the UK), I also started learning sculpture. But I was looking for something that I could express instantly and not depend on anybody else. While writing, I could explore my own creativity and maybe other people who read me would end up allowing themselves to explore their own paths. When I taught creative writing in underprivileged high schools I wanted to pass this message: expressing yourself through experimental writing will be a good way of being an activist in your own life. It's exactly the meaning of art. And this is how I always felt with my own creativity and experimental writing.

When I was 30 years old, I was awarded with the Villa Médicis prize in Rome, I could suddenly make money with my art, and this was like the word telling me you really are a poet now, I felt I was allowed to write, to make art. On the other hand, I needed to be surrounded by “underground” people and artists, in 1997, I decided to move to London and left Paris. I had already made music, vocals, with indie bands like The Wolfgang press from the label 4AD and few Electro bands and DJ’s. Music and poetry were quite separated in France at the time and didn’t seem to be connected at all. Now I use my vocals and music when I perform my poetry. Being a sound and vocal artist as well as a poet is different from being a singer who makes songs, different from being a sound poet who doesn’t sing. It’s more like an hypnotic experience for the audience. Singing during my readings is exactly like making the sound track of my own “mental-film”.  Nevertheless my books have their own life, my albums as well. I often include my music in my books (a CD attached inside) the text is always central. 

In pop culture, music and visual art seemed to touch more people than poetry, but this is also what I love about writing poetry, there is no space for mainstream approach, I don’t have to fit in a casual model. But it also includes visual and sound art. In my writing I experiment and explore all forms. I can use pop culture, as I did when writing on Cindy Sherman photos, David Lynch or Harmony Korine’s films, the iconic pop stars Britney Spears, or the iconic poet Emily Dickinson. This freedom is precious.

My poetry is mainly linked to my own life and what I observe from the inside:  family issues, hidden traumas, social rules and façades, sensations of “deja-vu”. In my art and own life I try to break social codes and stereotypes. I need to express what happens behind the norms and “sunny” people, and usually it's pretty dark. That's what  Sunny Girls is about (Poésie/Flammarion 2015), cinematographic and fairy tale atmospheres driving to hypnosis and transe. My new book Colloque des Télépathes (Editions de l’Attente 2017) is about the Fox sisters who invented ouija boards and spiritism, with the gothic and victorian atmosphere of paranormal phenomenon, linked to the Californian dream and it's cinematic approach (in films like Mulholland Drive”). “Post-Gradiva” my last album (CD) is included in “Colloque des télépathes” as a sound track experience with mental and sound images involving an hypnotic atmosphere. In Sunny girls I wrote on films like  Zabriskie Point” and Spring Breakers”, and I’ ve actually been invited to read and perform pieces of Sunny Girls at the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, in relation to Harmony Korine’s retrospective.

Now, I'm working on a new poetry book based on love and sex, questioning stereotypes in our capitalistic society and the conventional approach of what society and fairy tales try to impose as "norms” in term of couple, sex and family. There is a political approach in my work, as a woman, a single mother and artist. What could be “true love” in a society based on fears as well as the social image of a fake self. The spiritual and physiological experience of love and sex in a non conventional approach. Exploring all those issues in my poetry is also for me a way to create my own life.



Sandra Moussempès was born in Paris in 1965. She writes primarily in fragments that trouble stereotypes, particularly those surrounding femininity, by creating linguistic environments rich with anxiety, cinematic beauty, and déjà vu. Moussempès is a former resident of the Villa Médicis and she has published ten books with publishers including Poésie/Flammarion, Éditions de l’Attente, and Fourbis, as well as a bilingual Chapbook at Abovegroundpress in Canada. Also a vocal and sound artist, as well as a photographer, Moussempès infuses her poetry with her sensitivity to auditory and visual affect.  She reads and perform her poetry (using sometimes a vocal and sound device) in various places  including festivals and Modern Art Museums : Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Musée du Carré d'Art in Nîmes, MAMCO in Geneva, Kunsthalle Mulhouse, Centre Pompidou in Paris etc.. As a sound artist, she uses her vocals in her poetry reading and colaborates with other artists/musician,  such as  DJ/Producer Black Sifichi on her last Album “Post-Gradiva” CD included in her new book "Colloque des télépathes & CD Post-Gradiva" (Editions de l’Attente, 2017)



Books :

-Colloque des télépathes & Album CD Post-Gradiva (Editions de l'Attente, 2017)

-From: Sunny girls (above/ground press, 2017) translation by Elena Rivera

-Sunny girls (Poésie/Flammarion 2015)

-Acrobaties dessinées & CD Beauty Sitcom (Editions de l'Attente, 2012)

-Photogénie des ombres peintes (Poésie/Flammarion 2009)

-Biographie des idylles (Editions de l'Attente, 2005)

-Le seul jardin japonais à portée de vue (Editions de l'Attente 2004)

-Hors Champ (Editions CRL Franche Comté) 2001

-Captures (Poésie/Flammarion 2004)

-Vestiges de fillette (Poésie/Flammarion 1997)

-Exercices d'incendie (Editions Fourbis 1994)

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

We Who Are About To Die : nathan dueck


nathan dueck’s middle name is russel, which means his initials spell “nrd.” His parents tell him that no one used that word when he was born, but dictionaries say otherwise. He is the author of king’s(mère) (Turnstone Press) and he’ll (Pedlar Press). His next poetry collection, A Very Special Episode, is forthcoming from Buckrider Books.

Where are you now?

Cranbrook, BC: right of the Purcell Mountains, above Mount Baker, left of Kootenay River, below St. Mary’s River. My wife and I moved here with our kids a little while ago, so I’m still looking to the map for help. All I know for sure is this is the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.

What are you reading?

I’m in the middle of Brecht on Theatre because I’m researching for a project about der Verfremdungeffekt, which translates as “the Alienation Effect,” but it sounds way more scholarly in German.

What have you discovered lately?

The German word Gestus, which translates as both “gesture,” suggesting movement, and “gist,” attitude. In “A Short Organum for the Theatre” Brecht describes “the realm of gest” as those “attitudes adopted by the characters towards one another” (translated by John Willet). Actors, then, in Brecht’s “epic” theatre have to move in ways that portray their attitude, only those movements are not meant to appear natural or representational, but artificial or presentational. Instead, they mean to reveal their characters through “a set of social relations.” Also, I need to come clean: I’m a poser. I’m throwing German around here, but barely know a word of the language.

What are you working on?

I just don’t understand what lead to the emergence of the alt-right. I suspect it has origins in historical events and figures from the 1990s – e.g., Marshall Applewhite and the Heaven’s Gate cult, the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the detectives who beat Rodney King, Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno. I’m writing poems about that history that incorporate Gestus by “writing through” (as John Cage put it) lines of plays by Brecht. I’ve just started on this project, though, so I’m still working on the angles. That’s why I’m hiding behind all this academic-speak.

Where do you write?

At home, whenever I find time, on a computer with a family portrait on the desktop.

Have you anything forthcoming?

My next book of poems, tentatively titled A Very Special Episode – alternately titled Brought to You By – will be out with Buckrider Books in 2019.

What would you rather be doing?

God’s honest? Watching cartoons with my kids.

You have died





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On Writing #150 : Eleonore Schönmaier


Writing as Motion
Eleonore Schönmaier

Thinking actively as a way of creating poems happens in my life now almost as intuitively as breathing. If the days are overly busy with other necessary work the writing may be less but few days in my life exist without a poem lingering on the edges. I however need an enormous amount of space around my thoughts to write a truly great poem.

When I want my thoughts to unspool in new creative ways I turn to vivid distractions such as wonderful conversations and long-distance walking. Matthew Bevis writes, "Distraction is a time between times, a time in which we become momentarily subject to the non-thought inside thought. And this is the time-or one of the times-of poetry. Attention can be helpful later on as part of the process of revision, but for vision itself poets stand in need of distraction." Many times I write my poems in my mind while I'm in motion:  walking or cycling.  I often carry a camera but rarely carry a notebook and I have to keep new poems alive in my mind until I'm home.  The actual writing is a form of memory and memorising.

When I perform on stage together with musicians, I recite my poems from memory. The work of memorising for the performances is in a sense returning the poems to their origins.

For a new poem I begin with the visual followed by sound so that my poems are paintings and music before they become words. Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." The same is true for my life and work as a poet.

Learning how to write was for me like learning to swim: blissful immersion combined with forward motion. And with time I could cover longer and longer distances and I now also float with greater ease. When high waves wash over me I've learned how to breathe without swallowing water and in true storms the poems themselves become the life raft. Last summer while waiting in the emergency department I calmly recited the many memorised poems in my mind. They're like the beating of my heart: the words never cease in their calm or rapid-pulse presence.



Eleonore Schönmaier’s most recent book is Dust Blown Side of the Journey from McGill-Queen’s University Press. Her other collections are the critically acclaimed Wavelengths of Your Song (2013) and Treading Fast Rivers (1999). Her poetry has been set to music by Canadian, Dutch, Scottish, American and Greek composers including Emily DoolittleCarmen Braden and Michalis Paraskakis. The New European Ensemble has performed her poetry in concert. She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and was a Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize winner. Her poetry has been widely anthologized, has been translated into Dutch and German, and has been published in Best Canadian Poetryhttps://eleonoreschonmaier.com

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

On Writing #149 : Sennah Yee



On Writing
Sennah Yee 

I recently realized that I only write when I’m trying to avoid writing something else.

I started writing screenplays when I didn’t want to write a play. I started writing poetry when I didn’t want to write screenplays. I started “writing” found poetry when I didn’t want to write my “own” poetry. I started writing prose when I didn’t want to write any poetry. I started tweeting when I didn’t want to write prose. I started combining those tweets into prose poems when I didn’t want to tweet. I started writing academic essays when I didn’t want to write prose poems. I started writing this when I didn’t want to write an academic essay.

In a twisted way, procrastination is how I am productive. I’ve done work that I’m most proud of when I’ve scattered my focus across multiple things at once than when I’ve consciously chosen to commit to writing something – whether a poem, an essay for school, or yes, even a tweet. This way there’s less pressure for something to be perfect, complete, or even coherent. I used to be frustrated by this consistent inconsistence, but now it’s a source of surprise, motivation, and comfort. Though I’m still in envious awe of those who are disciplined enough to set aside time every day to write/work on a specific project! I keep meaning to try that.

Maybe I will try that, after I try to finish this academic essay...




Sennah Yee [photo credit: Alice Liu] is from Toronto. She writes poetry, writes about films, and writes poetry about films. Her debut poetry/non-fiction collection, How Do I Look?, was published by Metatron Press in 2017. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Cinema & Media Studies, focusing her research on gendered robot design in media and technology. She is the arts editor at Shameless Magazine, and co-edits/contributes to The Fuck of the Century. Find her @sennahaha / sennahyee.com