Soungs. Sonds.

A Soung­ing. Sond­ing. (Read­ing.) list by dove / Chris Kirubi

Myvoiceis workshop

The light flickers on the water, very sensitively, the flying fish, those silver creatures, you know, they have a rainbow evanescence as they float through the air. When I heard a hurricane, for instance, that wonderful deep song that comes out of Africa, the hurricane. The hurricane does not shout in pentameter. There was a completely different song, which I knew I had to capture if I was to begin to write the genesis of the islands.
Kamau Brathwaite

In his 1996 lecture My Poetry, Kamau Brathwaite describes his experience as a young poet, trying to write through and against the legacy of a colonial education in Barbados. He describes a rift that exists between the force of the education he received - the very sound of what he was taught writing and literature was - and his life in Barbados, his desire to “become a part of that sea, a part of that ocean”. Something is misregistered in this opening, something rendered incompatible and yet simultaneous.

Edouard Glissant takes this impossible sound further in Carribean Discourses when he writes that “our landscape cannot be de-scribed but narrated in our special approach to writing.” In this book he works with great lucidity through the friction between self-expression and the relationship to land, nation and dispossession, locating his analysis in the economic and cultural consequences of France’s colonisation of Martinique.

Poetry is a productive place to work through these hierarchies, to notice the places they create silence. Contemporary poets like petals Kalulé and Kashif Sharma-Patel employ lists of slippages, words that move across meanings and even languages with homonymic playfulness. Bernadette Meyer in her List of Journal Ideas also suggests keeping a journal of “coincidences & connections” or “daily changes”. Lists are a very ancient and rhythmic poetic form.

I am encouraged, by the grain of the recording of My Poetry that exists on YouTube and the softness of Brathwaite’s Barbadian accent, to keep lists of misheard words, inventing and improvising words and sounds where existing ones won’t do. It is from this neologistic practice that I titled this short piece of writing, allowing the doubt that hovers between sounds and songs to find a form in text.

It is important to be able to describe where we’re from, where we are and to produce accounts of our history. But through poetry, a different kind of writing (and therefore listening) becomes possible. It might be something close to transcription, or transposition. But this writing engenders a heightened attentiveness, what Glissant might term tremblement, “an instinct, an intuition of the world that we can’t achieve with imperial thoughts, with thoughts of domination, thought of a systematic path toward a truth that we’ve posited in advance.”

And this trembling listening might produce trembling texts, texts with no clear path through them, where the involvement of tongue and ear is open-ended and alive, filled with sounging, sonding language. Brathwaite offers us a path where we can both belong with and as a part of our land, but break with the deceitful violence of power, nation and statehood. To find one another in sensitive flickering; trembling readers in a trembling world.

Sounging. Sonding. (Reading.)

Petero Kalulé (petals), Kalimba. Guillemot Press, 2019.

Petero Kalulé (petals) & Clarissa Alvarez, marsh-river-raft-feather. Guillemot Press, 2021.

Petero Kalulé (petals), & glee & bless. Guillemot Press, 2024.

Kashif Sharma-Patel, furnish, entrap. Broken Sleep Books, 2024.

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictée. University of California Press, 2019.

Bhanu Kapil, Schizophrene. Nightboat Books, 2011.

Bhanu Kapil, Ban en banlieue. Nightboat Books, 2015.

Kamau Brathwaite, Born to Slow Horses. Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

Kamau Brathwaite, Elegguas. Wesleyan University Press, 2021.

Kamau Brathwaite, The Arrivants: A New World Trinity, Rights of Passage, Islands, Masks. OUP Oxford, 1981.

Haryette Mullen, Sleeping with the Dictionary. California University Press, 2002.

Haryette Mullen, Trimmings. Tender Buttons Books, 1991.

Nat Raha, of sirens, body & faultlines. Boiler House Press, 2018.

S*an D. Henry-Smith, Wild Peach. Futurepoem, 2020.

Bernadette Mayer, Proper Name. New Directions, 1996.

M. Nourbese Philip, she tries her tongue, her silence softly breaks. Wesleyan University Press, 2015.

Kamau Brathwaite, A History of the Voice. New Beacon Books Ltd, 1984.

Edouard Glissant, Caribean Discourses. University of Virginia Press, 1991.

Edouard Glissant & Hans Ulrich Obrist, The Archipelago Conversations. Isolarii, 2021.

Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals. Penguin Classics, 2020.

Verity Spott, Prayers Manifestos Bravery. Pilot Press, 2023.

Bernadette Meyer's List of Journal Ideas. EPC Digital library, expanded from Mayer's Experiments List, published in <em>L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E,/em>, 1978.

Sean Bonney, 'Notes on Militant Poetics', All This Burning Earth: Selected Writings of Sean Bonney. Ill Will, 2016.

Pauline Oliveiros, Sonic Meditations. Ministry of Maat, 2022.

About dove / Chris

dove / Chris Kirubi is a poet-artist based in London. Their debut collection of poetry titled WILDPLASSEN is forthcoming with the87press in October. They are a lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art.

This resource is part of a series of writing workshops that was part of the West of England Visual Arts Alliance (WEVAA), a three year programme that includes professional development, commissioning, and support and resources. Find out more here https://vasw.org.uk/wevaa.

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